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The latest from Ottawa: Police line moves quickly and assuredly


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The “Freedom Convoy” that converged in Ottawa on Jan. 28 began in response to the federal government’s move to require Canadian truck drivers crossing the U.S. border be fully vaccinated to avoid testing and quarantine requirements, but has evolved into a protest of all public health measures aimed at fighting the COVID-19 pandemic. Organizers say they will not end their protest until all measures are dropped.

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12:00

Pepper spray appears to have been used now, with one protester seen holding his face and others pouring water into their eyes.

Of the three main convoy organizers arrested this week, Tamara Lich, arrested on Thursday, is currently in court for a bail hearing. She has told court she is willing to go home to Medicine Hat, but cannot fly as she cannot fulfill the vaccine mandate. She claims to need four days to arrange transportation.

Chris Barber has been released on bail and must leave the province by Wednesday.

Pat King’s bail hearing is set for Tuesday at 9:30 a.m.

11:45 a.m.

Ottawa police said they have arrested protesters wearing body armour who had smoke grenades and fireworks in their bags. “Additional smoke grenades and fireworks were located and seized in a vehicle on Wellington,” police said.

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Parliamentary security issued a release saying the precinct is in a “hold and secure” state. “Hold and secure means that perimeter doors are locked, and if you are on the parliamentary precinct you are strongly advised against leaving the building. It is not a lockdown.”

A demonstrator protests as police deploy to remove them on Feb. 19, 2022, in Ottawa.
A demonstrator protests as police deploy to remove them on Feb. 19, 2022, in Ottawa. Photo by ANDREJ IVANOV / AFP via Getty Images

11:20 a.m.

Protesters begin chanting “Freedom” and singing the national anthem, still refusing to leave.

National Post’s Ryan Tumilty reports that, moving from both sides, police pushed all the protesters away from Wellington Street in front of Parliament Hill and down O’Connor Street.

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The secured area of downtown Ottawa is still part of the enforcement strategy, where police have blocked access to streets.

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11:00 a.m.

Police using batons and crowd dispersal grenades had pushed the demonstrators past the soundstage they had built at the corner at Metcalfe and Wellington streets. Protesters donned N95 masks and gas masks or covered their faces with scarves as fumes lingered in the air.

“This is just the beginning of our movement, people,” one man yelled, beginning a chant of “freedom!”

The crowd was thin facing off with a line of police at least four officers deep. As police advanced they arrested truck drivers who had stayed in their vehicles and raided the trailers of trucks that had been parked on Wellington Street for three weeks.

Reuters is reporting that police used pepper spray and stun grenades to try to restore normality to the capital, while CBC reported that there was no smell of tear gas in the air. Police said they did  not use gas on protesters.

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Randy Hillier this morning claimed that the protest will be over at 1 p.m.

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10:50 a.m.

Protesters boo as mounted police make an appearance to try to disperse the crowd. They are separating them into smaller groups to enable easier control and dispersal.

On foot, police advance toward the protesters from both ends of Wellington Street, but are leaving them ways open so they can leave.

On a loudspeaker, police say “You will be arrested if you are found here.”

A view of law enforcement taking control of parked trucks on Wellington Street.
A view of law enforcement taking control of parked trucks on Wellington Street. Photo by Ryan Tumilty / National Post

10:30 a.m.

Police hauled a truck driver out of his vehicle and arrested him. Law enforcement continues to smash vehicle windows to evict any protesters and in at least one case, took the contents for investigation.

What appears to have been tear gas has made an appearance, though police say it was thrown by protesters.

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In another tweet, police said “One protester launched a gas canister and was arrested. Police response will be with public and officer safety in mind. Police remind protesters to remain peaceful.”

10:15 a.m.

Pat King, one of the leading figures behind an anti-government protest on Parliament Hill, is set to appear in court today to face charges related to his role in the demonstration.

Ottawa police say King, 44, faces charges of mischief, counselling to commit mischief, counselling to commit the offence of disobeying a court order and counselling to obstruct police.

King, from Red Deer, Alta., live-streamed his own arrest on Facebook Friday.

Tamara Lich, another prominent protest organizer, is also expected to appear in court today.

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Demonstrators continue their protest as police deploy to remove them on Feb. 19, 2022.
Demonstrators continue their protest as police deploy to remove them on Feb. 19, 2022. Photo by ANDREJ IVANOV/AFP via Getty Images

10:00 a.m.

The mood among the protesters was no longer joyful.

“I love you in case anything goes south,” one woman told a man. Three demonstrators stood holding peace signs in front of a defiant line of trucks that honked occasionally.

Some trucks were frantically leaving Saturday as police advanced down Wellington Street.

One woman urged truck drivers to head to Quebec City, if they were forced to leave. “There’s a big demonstration happening there today and it’s growing,” she said, urging them to hop of Quebec’s Highway 40 and head eastward.

9:58 a.m.

Tactical officers have smashed through the window of a truck on Wellington after police pushed forward rapidly.  Ottawa Police said on Twitter that “We urge protesters to remain peaceful and lawful.

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“We told you to leave. We gave you time to leave. We were slow and methodical, yet you were assaultive and aggressive with officers and the horses. Based on your behaviour, we are responding by including helmets and batons for our safety.” Police are warning protesters to leave immediately.

Protest organizers Tamara Lich and Pat King, a controversial far-right figure, were scheduled to appear in court today, while members of Parliament resumed debate of the invocation of the Emergencies Act. King, 44, was charged Friday with mischief, counselling to commit mischief, counselling to commit the offence of disobeying a court order and counselling to obstruct police.

9:40 a.m.

A sharp bang occurred behind the line of police, as they continue to push the crowd as a small group links arms to try to hold their line.

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9:30 a.m.

As the interim chief of police stated yesterday, this weekend is already not looking like it has in past weekends.

The line of police are moving the remaining protesters at a more rapid pace than on Friday, what seems like 200 metres in mere minutes rather than the few metres per minute yesterday, and most people are not pushing back. Because the departed trucks have opened the space, police can move more quickly. The crowed has been moved away from the Chateau Laurier, toward Parliament Hill.

9:20 a.m.

Small groups of protesters are left this morning. Police have begun moving in from around the Chateau Laurier, pushing away what’s left of the protesters, who number in the dozens now. Tactical police have batons, to help keep a distance between themselves and the front line of the protesters. The remaining protesters appear to have a heightened sense of resolve to stay.

Smoke suddenly appeared, and a protester was almost immediately arrested.

— more to come

— with additional reporting by The Canadian Press and Ottawa Citizen

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