Police in Ottawa, Ontario, on Friday reportedly started arresting truckers who have been protesting Canada’s vaccine mandates and other COVID-19 related restrictions for the past three weeks.
With some dressed in tactical gear and carrying automatic weapons, police began a crackdown on Thursday night, reportedly arresting organizers Tamara Lich and Chris Barber around the capital’s Parliament Hill area. Authorities also sealed off a large section of the city’s center to prevent people, including reporters, from entering.
“All media who are attending the area, please keep a distance and stay out of police operations for your safety,” Ottawa police tweeted Friday. “Anyone found within areas undergoing enforcement may be subject to arrest.”
The Canadian Broadcasting Corp., Canada’s state media, reported the arrests had taken place and said that police had set up several detention centers around the city.
Some Ottawa residents had complained that the truckers were loud and had snarled traffic.
The police action also led to the country’s House of Commons suspending its Friday session. Canada’s Parliament building has been the focal point of the protests.
On Friday, some of the protesters were led away in handcuffs, The Associated Press reported, while others surrendered and were taken into custody.
Police said the operation to clear out the protesters would take days, Reuters reported.
One protester being carried away was carrying a sign saying “Mandate Freedom.”
Some of the trucks have also been towed, according to the AP.
Jail? 'So what?'
Despite the police action, some of the truckers remained defiant.
“Freedom was never free,” trucker Kevin Homaund of Montreal told the AP. “So what if they put the handcuffs on us and they put us in jail?”
Earlier in the week, three border blockades, which had obstructed trade between the U.S. and Canada, ended peacefully.
On Monday, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau invoked Canada’s Emergencies Act, giving law enforcement extraordinary latitude to make arrests, freeze bank accounts and tow trucks.
Some information for this report came from Reuters and The Associated Press.