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Canadian law enforcement are using crowd control tactics such as horses, pepper spray, and clubs to arrest and push Freedom Convoy protesters out of downtown Ottawa.
Law enforcement launched a campaign to break the protest, which has gone on for weeks after truckers rolled into the city in late January to protest against vaccine mandates. The demonstration has since grown to oppose other COVID-19 restrictions as well.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau invoked the Emergencies Act, enacted in 1989 as a successor to the War Measures Act, on Monday as a “last resort” to deal with the Freedom Convoy protest that has camped outside of Parliament for roughly three weeks. Law enforcement began what could be its final crackdown on the protest on Friday after thousands of officers reportedly circled the protest area.
Police began making arrests and towing vehicles. Several hours into the sweep, police have arrested at least 70 protesters and removed over 20 vehicles, according to the Ottawa Police Department. Later in the afternoon, police broke out heavy crowd control tactics such as horses, clubs, and tear gas to push the protesters back.
Police horses are brought in again against the freedom protestors as law enforcement surges forward.
— The Post Millennial (@TPostMillennial) February 18, 2022
BREAKING: Police deployed pepper spray against protesters in Ottawa.
— Mocha Bezirgan (@BezirganMocha) February 18, 2022
WATCH: Police officer appears to beat protester with the stock of his gun. pic.twitter.com/xnqR2JI4oI
— Candice Malcolm (@CandiceMalcolm) February 18, 2022
The Ottawa police claimed that the escalation in tactics was a response to protester tactics. The police claimed protesters were getting violent and accused demonstrators of placing children in between officers and the protest.
“Protesters are assaulting officers, have attempted to remove officer’s weapons. All means of de-escalation have been used to move forward in our goal of returning Ottawa to it’s normalcy,” the Ottawa Police Department Twitter account posted.
“The protesters continued their assaultive behaviour with the police line, to prevent an escalation or further injury, mounted officers were sent in to create critical space between the police line and protesters. This is done to create a safe distance,” the account posted later. “As this was happening a bicycle was thrown at the feet of one of the horses in an attempt to injure it. One person was arrested for intentionally harming a police service animal.”
The protesters continued their assaultive behaviour with the police line, to prevent an escalation or further injury, mounted officers were sent in to create critical space between the police line and protesters. This is done to create a safe distance. pic.twitter.com/PUIj7w1rwc
— Ottawa Police (@OttawaPolice) February 18, 2022
Authorities have taken at least three organizers of the Freedom Convoy protest into custody. Daniel Bulford, a former Royal Canadian Mounted Police sniper, is the latest to have been arrested. Bulford turned himself into police on Friday.
Two other organizers, Chris Barber and Tamara Lich, were arrested by police on Thursday. Ottawa police confirmed the arrests on Friday. Barber is facing several charges of “counselling to commit the offence of mischief,” “counselling to commit the offence of disobey court order,” and “counselling to commit the offence of obstruct police.” Lich has been charged with “counselling to commit the offence of mischief.”
On Monday, Trudeau claimed that the Emergencies Act would be used to break “illegal blockades” set up by the protesters.
“We’re not using the emergencies act to call in the military. We are not suspending fundamental rights or overriding the charter of rights and freedoms. We are not limiting people’s freedom of speech. We are not limiting freedom of peaceful assembly. We are not preventing people from exercising their right to protest legally. We are reinforcing the principles, values, and institutions that keep all Canadians free,” Trudeau claimed.
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