Riot police made multiple arrests Friday night in Canada’s capital after clashing with protesters opposing COVID-19 restrictions.
Tractor-trailers tried to make their way to Parliament Hill to take part in the “Rolling Thunder” rally organized by Freedom Fighters Canada, a group dedicated to protesting mandates to contain the coronavirus.
Many of the protesters were also part of the Freedom Convoy protest that paralyzed downtown Ottawa for three weeks this year using trailers, prompting the Canadian government to invoke the Emergencies Act for the first time. That protest came to an end after hundreds of police officers entered to disperse the crowd, making dozens of arrests.
Ottawa police vowed Friday that protesters will not be allowed to gain a foothold to maintain a prolonged occupation.
More than 800 reinforcements from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, Ontario Provincial Police and regional police services were called in to protect major downtown intersections and prevent protesters from driving vehicles into them.
The protest began quietly, with cries of “freedom!” as protesters mingled and danced on Wellington Street, the main thoroughfare facing Parliament Hill. Protesters also marched through ByWard Market, escorted by police.
But at dusk the agents noticed that a large caravan was trying to enter the city. Soon, hundreds of protesters gathered around trailers and mobile homes right in front of the parliamentary compound.
The demonstrators shouted “hold the line!”, trying to move the police away from the vehicles. The officers tried to force the crowd out of the trucks, back towards Parliament Hill.
Late in the afternoon, municipal agents indicated that they had issued 185 fines and towed 20 vehicles related to the protest.
Ottawa City Councilman Jeff Leiper reported seeing police smash a truck window to take control of the vehicle. Officers were seen making arrests on the street.
On Saturday, protesters plan to tour around downtown, stopping at the Canadian Armed Forces Sacrifice in War Memorial and marching to a rally on Parliament Hill.