Ottawa trucker protest
© AFP via Getty Images
Heavily-armed police and riot cops were in control of downtown Ottawa streets late Saturday after a two-day military-style operation to smash the Freedom Convoy truck occupation.

At least 170 protestors have now been arrested since the start of the operation Friday morning and nearly 50 trucks and other vehicles have been towed off.

Scores of big rigs that had been lining the protest's core area of Wellington Street beside the Parliament buildings are gone - some towed but most finally being driven away after truckers were given five-minute warnings before they would be arrested.

They vanished after police dramatically overran the central location, beside Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's office, which has been the epicenter of the paralyzing three-week Freedom Convoy blockade by more than 300 trucks and which had a stage with a video screen and assorted food tents.

A smaller number of protest supporters were mingling around other streets into the night, some in small stand-offs against police lines but others just wandering around.

Ottawa's interim police chief Steve Bell said of the operation: 'It is going at this point exactly as we anticipated.'

On Saturday, the debate on whether Trudeau should have enacted the draconian Emergency Powers Act resumed, after being suspended Friday over claims the nearby protests had compromised Canadian MPs' safety.

Some arrests were made as the line moved steadily from the Chateau Launier hotel - which had been the overnight holding position - and up Wellington Street to the Parliament buildings area.

Cops now easily outnumber the remaining protestors, who gathered after the first police thrust near their makeshift stage in what felt like a last stand in freezing temperatures and snowfall.

Within an hour they were also shunted from that area - which has been crucial to them - as a second wave of police action dispersed them to nearby streets.

Ottawa's city cops were even more heavily armed than when the clearance operation began Friday. They were all carrying batons and were helmeted. Others had rubber bullet guns.
ottowa protest
© Jake Wright for Daily Mail
As the line halted almost under the window of Trudeau's office, other ranks of the fearsome Surete du Quebec riot police - dressed in military-style green fatigues and with tear gas guns - assembled in the rear.
canada protest
© Reuters
Also waiting in the background were several police horses, which were used Friday evening to storm through protestors after cops said officers were being attacked.

Comment: See also:

Ottawa police had said they believe the bulk of the operation could be achieved Saturday.

By 11 a.m., the protesters' stage and 'community area' which had food stands was overrun by police.

It was the central focus of the blockade outside Parliament buildings on Wellington Street - with a video screen and other facilities.

Farther down Wellington Street, police squads arrived and gave truckers and demonstrators there five minutes to get out - or be arrested. All three trucks there and one RV left. One of them was driven by a woman sobbing at the wheel.

As the trucks left, a small crowd cheered and applauded, calling them heroes.

The police operation on Saturday moved much faster than on Friday. Before lunchtime, they had taken control of the main area and were left with mopping up the side streets - which still contained a lot of vehicles at that point.
canada protest
© Reuters
A freedom convoy protester is hit with pepper spray Saturday as cops in Canada clear the final Freedom Convoy protesters away from the Parliament building in Ottawa
Ottawa interim police chief Bell updated the total number of arrests over two days to 170.

And he added of the operation: 'It is going at this point exactly as we anticipated.'

Bell, who took over when former chief Peter Sloly resigned, said at a press conference: 'This is tough work.

'These officers are doing what they have been trained to do. They have demonstrated unparalleled discipline, restraint and the upmost professionalism.'

He said of the protestors: 'At every step in the this operation we have been upfront and clear with the unlawful protestors that they must leave the area.

'We have advised them of our enforcements efforts to they could continue to make informed decisions.

'We backed up those warning with a deliberate and methodical operation using lawful and safe tactics.

Bell said his teams had faced 'a barrage of resistance, shoving and vitriol' at every stage.

'We all saw the protestors were aggressive with the officers and we needed to use horses at one point,' he added.

Comment: Really?

'As a result we responded this morning by adding helmets and batons to our equipment for the safety of our officers.
canada protest
© Jake Wright for Daily Mail
Officers were armed with batons and rubber bullet guns, and managed to clear protesters from the front of the Canadian Parliament building
'Our officers continued to face resistance. At one point a flare was ignited by a protestor. Officers used a chemical irritant also known as pepper spray unlawful demonstrators who were resisting police orders.'

Bell condemned parents who are bringing children to the front line of the protest.

'Sadly we again saw young children being brought to... the front of our police operation,' he said.

'This is dangerous and is putting young children at risk.'

Freedom Convoy organizers had issued a statement saying they have now asked truckers to move their rigs from the Parliament Hill area.

It was the first signal from the nerve center of the protest that they are accepting they are in the final stages of the blockade.

Leaders also condemned police action against their protest.

A statement said: 'The Freedom Convoy 2022 is shocked at the abuses of power by the low enforcement in Ottawa.

'The police have horse-trampled on demonstrators and deployed riot control agents. They have beaten peaceful protestors with batons and with the stock of their guns.

'We have therefore asked out truckers to move from Parliament Hill to avoid further brutality. To move trucks we will need time. This has been communicated to Ottawa police, and we hope that they will judicious restraint.

'The truckers are moving, and the use of more force will only be used to punish people and it to preserve establish order.'

Around 9:15 a.m., cops issued a tweet aimed at demonstrators still near Chateau Laurier saying: 'Protestors: we told you to leave. We have you time to leave.

'We were slow and methodical, yet you were assaultive and aggressive with officers and the horses.

'Based on your behavior, we are responding by including helmets and batons for our safety.'

Five minutes later they began their latest push.

One protestor launched a gas canister at the cops, according to another official tweet. It added: 'Police response will be with public and officer safety in mind. Police remind protestors to remain peaceful.'

Dozens of truckers have now abandoned the protest and driven their rigs away from the area - despite earlier saying they were going nowhere.

Numbers of demonstrators, who made the same vow to media, have also dwindled drastically in the face of patient but determined police action.

Seven law enforcement agencies are involved in the swoop to regain the streets.

Heavily-armed riot cops used pepper spray, while mounted police and armored vehicles were also brought in to help begin clearing the downtown area, paralyzed by a three-week blockade over the truckers' Covid jab protest.
canada truckers
© AP
On Friday night, Ottawa police ramped up the pressure by issuing an alert saying anyone 'within the unlawful protest site may be arrested.'

Officers smashed the window of one truck to pull the occupant out and arrest him. Protesters who refused to move were arrested one by one before they were taken away by pairs of officers.

A third protest leader, Pat King, was arrested. On Thursday, two other organizers - Tamara Lich and Chris Barber - had been taken into custody.

One SUV carrying nurses and medical supplies was surrounded by armed police and a window of the vehicle was smashed, outside the secure area. When the police searched the vehicle and confirmed there were no weapons, they let the protesters continue their journey - and gave them information about how to get the window repaired. There were no arrests.

The police at 10:20 p.m. on Friday tweeted: 'Please note: No one has been seriously injured or passed away in any of today's police actions. Safety is our priority.'

Comment: The pictures tell another story.

They also continued urging people to voluntarily leave the secure zone.

The massive sweep involving seven police forces began around 11:15 a.m. on Friday It followed days of speculation about when the crackdown would happen after Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau invoked the Emergencies Act for draconian new powers.

Among the police units on the ground are the fearsome Surete du Quebec riot cops, dressed in green military-style fatigues, helmets and visors and wielding batons. Some were also brandishing tear gas guns and already wearing gas masks.

The operation began with a tense face-off between a large contingent of Ottawa cops - dressed in blue tactical gear and some with rubber bullet guns - confronting demonstrators near the Westin hotel on the edge of the police's new 'secured zone.' Police horses were in the background. witnessed four arrests of individuals who were singled out and wrestled to the ground before being cuffed with zip ties and led away.

Officers faced taunts and shouts as they slowly moved the crowd back towards the iconic Chateau Laurier hotel, about 400 yards from the protest epicenter beside the Parliament Buildings.

As he watched cops advance, protestor Dallon - who would not give his last name - told 'This is a sledge hammer to kill a fly.

Comment: Yes, but ideas are bulletproof and Trudeau, along with the rest of the global leaders NEED this rebellion to be quelled.

'I'm not afraid to get arrested. In fact I'm expecting it. But they know why we are here and many of them are actually with us.'

The number of demonstrators thinned out with the first police surge in the highly fluid situation. Organizers could be heard trying to rally protestors to 'hold the line' farther back.

One, who had a British accent, appeared to be a demonstration co-ordinator. He rushed past us as he yelled to others: 'Go back, hold the line in Wellington Street (closer to the main blockade). We're just going to get arrested here,'

As the crowd was corralled up the street to a group of parked trucks, at least 50 of the Surete du Quebec riot cops appeared to come out of nowhere and the tension rose dramatically.
canada protest
© AFP via Getty Images
The daunting military-style figures blocked anyone leaving their self-imposed perimeter, warning everyone including the media that they faced arrest.

Minutes later, they formed a single line, separating demonstrators from the road intersection near the Chateau Laurier that had been taken over by truckers.

Three riot cop spotters were seen on the roof of the building being used as the temporary home of the Canadian Senate, which overlooks the stand-off area. A drone was flying overhead.

Demonstrators yelled 'shame on you' and chanted at the officers, who stood immobile for at least two hours in what appears to be a patient and methodical police operation.

One man stripped off his shirt and got down on his knees in an imploring gesture as he begged them to back off.
canada protest
© AFP via Getty Images
However, behind the wall of riot cops other officers could be seen arresting truckers who had stayed in their rigs which were overrun by the law enforcement surge near the Chateau Laurier.

Cops could be seen knocking on the door of trucks to get the drivers to come out. Most complied, although at least one tried to stay put and an officer breached the door to pull him out.

The arrested drivers all ended up sprawled on the snow, made to put their arms behind their backs and were then cuffed before being led away.

And the tension rose dramatically just before 5pm when a column of police horses moved in as the riot cops began another surge to claim more ground. By 6.25pm the riot police were holding a new line slightly closer to the Parliament Buildings.

Ottawa cops said their officers had been attacked. They tweeted: 'Protestors are assaulting officers, have attempted to remove officers' weapons. All means of de-escalation have been used to move forward in our goal of returning Ottawa to its normalcy.'

And the force also issued an official alert graphic on Twitter, reading: 'Demonstrators you must leave. Anyone found within the zone will be arrested.'

It reinforced the message by adding: 'You must leave. You must cease further unlawful activity and immediately remove your vehicle and/or property from all unlawful protest sites. Anyone within the unlawful protest site may be arrested.'

Some demonstrators remained defiant but appeared shaken by the initial police surge. However, as the day drew on their spirits lifted. More and more protestors began to congregate in the stand-off area.

It is clear that the combined police operation is working to a specific and patient plan, however the demonstrators also appear well organized - and now largely unfazed.

Dozens were roaming around filming on their phones and dictating a narrative as they live-streamed on social media.

As word spread of the dramatic police action, at least 14 trucks near the Parliament Buildings drove off from the spots where they had been for three weeks.

Back at the makeshift stage almost under the office window of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, the atmosphere was surreal.

While riot cops were cracking down just 300 yards away, music was still blaring from the stage and a performer was trying to keep up the spirits of protestors huddled around and dancing.

Among truckers parked on Parliament Hill near Trudeau's office, the mood was growing philosophical as the law enforcement surge tightened its grip.

Eric, who would not give his last name, was carrying fuel cans to his rig parked in Wellington St beside the Parliament Buildings.

He said of confronting police when it comes: 'We are going to be peaceful. So if the police come in, knocking on our doors, arresting us or telling us we have to leave then that's going to happen.

'We will do our best to be peaceful and to comply as much as we can with police orders.'

He added: 'We are not sure what is going to happen. They are arresting some drivers and towing some trucks. But I understand that here in Wellington Street we are allowed to be here, this is legal.

'We are not breaking any laws, we have lawyers saying that.

'We are being lawful so from that standpoint that is why we are still here and whatever comes from there.

'I think we are on our way to this protest being a success. There is a lot of hard work needed after this. I think we opened up a lot of eyes. A lot of people who were afraid to speak up are now speaking up. The Prime Minister was not willing to speak with us at all, he just totally discredited us.'

To read the full article readers can visit the Daily Mail here.