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Canadian police start arresting protesters to end Ottawa blockade

Hundreds of police could be seen in central Ottawa, which received more than 8 inches of snow overnight, as temperatures with wind chill hovered about -9.4 Fahrenheit.

Truckers and supporters continue to protest COVID-19 vaccine mandates, in Ottawa
Police officers detain a man, as truckers and supporters continue to protest coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine mandates, in Ottawa on February 18, 2022.
CARLOS OSORIO/REUTERS
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OTTAWA — Canadian police on Friday started arresting protesters as part of an operation to end a three-week blockade of Ottawa by hundreds of truck drivers that crippled the capital and prompted Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to assume emergency powers.

Live television footage showed police making at least eight arrests, without using any force. Officers had detained two of the protest leaders late on Thursday.

"Some protesters are surrendering and are being arrested. We ask protesters to remain peaceful and lawful," the Ottawa police said in a tweet.

Hundreds of police could be seen in central Ottawa, which received more than 8 inches of snow overnight, as temperatures with wind chill hovered about -9.4 Fahrenheit.

At least one BearCat, a military-style armored vehicle, could be seen. Police say the operation will take days.

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The drivers, joined by thousands of demonstrators and some 400 vehicles, turned the streets around Parliament into a party zone since first arriving on Jan. 28, in what has become one of the worst crises to hit Trudeau since he took power in 2015.

The protesters initially wanted an end to cross-border COVID-19 vaccine mandates for truck drivers but the blockade gradually turned into an anti-government and anti-Trudeau demonstration. Some want Trudeau to be ousted.

Police have sealed off the center of the city, setting up 100 checkpoints to prevent any more people joining the demonstration on Parliament Hill.

Police had said on Thursday that they would take imminent action to end the protest amid increasing resident anger at the previous failure of authorities to intervene.

The Canadian Broadcasting Corp., citing security sources, said authorities had set up a number of temporary detention centers around the city.

The House of Commons suspended its Friday sitting due to the expected police action, it said in a notice.

"If you are not in the House of Commons precinct, stay away from the downtown core until further notice," the notice said.

Legislators had been due to debate Trudeau's decision on Monday to invoke the Emergencies Act for the first time in 50 years, granting the government temporary additional widespread powers to deal with what he called a threat to democracy.

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Protesters blocked several land crossings with the United States, including the busiest, the Ambassador Bridge, which connects to Detroit, for six days, hurting both countries' economies.

Many protesters on Parliament Hill said they would not leave until their demands were met.

"End the mandates, give us our rights and this is over," said Chris Dacey on Thursday. "We'll all go back to our families."

(Reporting by David Ljunggren, Steve Scherer and Julie Gordon; editing by Leslie Adler, Chizu Nomiyama and Mark Porter.)

Related Topics: CANADA
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