This photo shows a truck near the parliament building in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, on Friday. AFP
Police arrested scores of demonstrators and towed away vehicles on Friday in Canada's besieged capital, and a stream of trucks started leaving under the pressure, raising authorities' hopes for an end to the three-week protest against the country's COVID-19 restrictions.
Police moved to dislodge the final truckers and protesters from downtown Ottawa, in a mostly peaceful operation aimed at bringing an end to three weeks of demonstrations over Covid-19 health rules.
By evening, at least 100 people had been arrested, mostly on mischief charges, and nearly two dozen vehicles had been towed, including all of those blocking one of the city's major streets, authorities said. One officer had a minor injury, but no protesters were hurt, interim Ottawa Police Chief Steve Bell said.
Deployed by the hundreds, police said they made more than 100 arrests and towed about 20 vehicles. No one was seriously hurt, they added, with Ottawa interim police chief Steve Bell saying the operation was going as planned but would take time.
Police break into a motorhome to remove the occupant as they begin to break up a protest in Ottawa on Friday. AFP
Some truckers, who had led the protests that kicked off three weeks ago and choked Ottawa's streets with big rigs and demonstators by the hundreds, chose to leave on their own, removing their 18-wheelers from the streets surrounding parliament.
Police "continue to push forward to take control of our streets,” he said, adding: "We will work day and night until this is completed.”
Those arrested included four protest leaders. One received bail while the others remained jailed.
The crackdown on the self-styled Freedom Convoy began in the morning, when hundreds of police, some in riot gear and some carrying automatic weapons, descended into the protest zone and began leading demonstrators away in handcuffs through the snowy streets as holdout truckers blared their horns.
Late Friday night, Ottawa police, who pledged the operation would push ahead "until residents and citizens have their city back," were still working to clear the capital's streets.
A driver sits in his truck near the parliament building as police begin to break up a protest in Ottawa on Friday. AFP
Authorities continued to warn demonstrators to go.
"You must leave. You must cease further unlawful activity and immediately remove your vehicle and/or property from all unlawful protest sites," Ottawa police tweeted repeatedly, warning of possible arrests.
Throughout the day, heavily armed officers — including on horseback — lined up against protesters who locked arms, advancing slowly and methodically to push back the spirited crowd.
Tow truck operators — wearing neon-green ski masks, with their companies’ decals taped over on their trucks to conceal their identities — arrived under police escort and started removing the hundreds of big rigs, campers and other vehicles parked shoulder-to-shoulder near Parliament. Police smashed through the door of at least one RV camper before hauling it away.
Their numbers have fallen from a peak of almost 15,000 when the truckers first rolled into the capital two weeks ago. At first the goal was to protest Covid restrictions although this has morphed into a broader outcry against the government.
Many of the protesters involved in a morning service at the National War Memorial and a later rally on Parliament Hill were also involved in the "Freedom Convoy” that shuttered downtown Ottawa for weeks in February.
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