Police in Canada’s capital city on Saturday donned helmets and batons and at times brandished firearms as officers worked to clear out protesters associated with the “Freedom Convoy” demonstrations.
In a series of updates on their Twitter page, Ottawa Police said protesters were acting aggressively toward officers moving in over the weekend to clear out the protest zone. One protester launched a gas canister at officers, while other protesters wore body armor or wielded fireworks and smoke grenades.
“Protesters continue to be aggressive and assaultive on officers,” police wrote on Twitter. “They are refusing to comply with the orders to move. You will have seen officers use a chemical irritant in an effort to stop the assaultive behavior and for officer safety.”
“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,” the force added in another post. “Based on your behaviour, we are responding by including helmets and batons for our safety.”
With some demonstrators resisting, Ottawa officers advanced on trucks at gunpoint, smashed windows and arrested protesters in front of the nation’s Parliament building, The New York Times reported.
Police have set up about 100 security checkpoints surrounding the downtown area in the Canadian capital.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Monday invoked the nation’s emergencies act to clear out the demonstration, which has dragged on for about three weeks as truckers and demonstrators protested a COVID-19 vaccine mandate.
“The blockades and occupations are illegal,” Trudeau told the Canadian Parliament on Thursday. “They’re a threat to our economy and relationship with trading partners. They are a threat to supply chains and the availability of essential goods, like food and medicine. They’re a threat to public safety.”
On Friday night, Ottawa Police said officers had made more than 100 arrests and towed 21 vehicles.
The news follows last weekend’s clearing out of the largest Freedom Convoy blockade at the Ambassador Bridge, connecting Detroit to Windsor, Ontario, when police arrested the last of the demonstrators.
The Freedom Convoy protests have been mimicked in other countries, including New Zealand and France.
Updated 1:39 p.m.