Rob Gillis, Wilson Ring and Robert BAMSTED

Ottawa, Ontario (AP) – police began to arrest demonstrators and tow trucks on Friday, trying to break a three-week siege of Canada with difficulty movement hundreds of truckers, disclaimed restrictions in the country COVID-19.

During the operation, which unfolded slowly and methodically in the morning, officers walked from door to door alternately trucks, campers and other vehicles parked in the snow-covered streets of Ottawa.

Some protesters surrendered and were taken into custody, police said. Some were led in handcuffs. One person was taken away carrying a sign that reads “Freedom Mandate.”

Many of the truckers remained lean.

“Freedom has never been free,” said trucker Kevin Hommond, of Montreal. “So what if they handcuffed us and they put us in jail?”

The police made his first step to stop the occupation on Thursday late in the evening, arresting two key protest leaders. They also sealed most of downtown for outsiders to prevent them from coming to the aid of an independent Free Convoy protest.

The capital has become the last stronghold of the movement after three weeks of demonstrations and blockades that closed U.S. border crossings, caused economic damage to both countries and created a political crisis for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. They have also shaken Canada’s civilized reputation, with some opponents of the unrest blaming United States influence.

Authorities have fluctuated against many protesters across the country in recent weeks, in part for fear of violence. Demonstrations are addressed by right-wing extremists and veterans, some of them armed.

Pat King, one of the leaders of the protest in Ottawa, told truckers, “Please say peaceful,” and also threatened the livelihoods of evacuation drivers providing assistance to police.

“For tow truck drivers, you are committing a career of suicide,” the king said on Facebook. “We know where those trucks are.”

With police and government facing charges that they are allowing protests to gain strength and spread, Trudeau on Monday is causing a state of emergency in Canada by giving law enforcement law to declare blockades illegal, tow vehicles, arrest drivers, suspend their licenses and freeze them. accounts.

Ottawa police on Thursday made it clear they were preparing to end the protest and remove more than 300 trucks, with the city’s interim police chief warning: “Action is imminent.”

The operation in Ottawa on Friday began in the morning when police systematically arrested protesters a few blocks from Parliament Hill, the heart of the protest zone, where trucks stood shoulder to shoulder. Some officers carry automatic weapons and wore tactical uniforms.

Heavy tow trucks began to move away from some of the larger installations.

Not long after the arrests began, at least one large installation was diverted near the front of parliament.

But despite warnings to leave posted by police on social media, several protesters danced in the streets before Beastie Boys Anthem “(you have to) fight for rights (at a party!)” And Bob Marley “get up, get up” at the time as he shouted, “Freedom!”

The two protest leaders under arrest were linked in court Friday. Among the charges: pranks and obstruction of police.

The bumper-to-bumper occupation has outraged many Ottawa residents, who have complained of harassment and intimidation in the streets and have sought a court order to stop the incessant buzzing of trucks.

Demonstrations across the country by demonstrators in trucks, tractors and motorhomes initially focused on Canada’s demands for a vaccine for truckers entering the country, but soon escalated into a widespread attack on precautionary measures against COVID-19 and the Trudeau government.

The biggest border blockade on the Ambassador Bridge between Windsor, Ontario and Detroit, disrupted the flow of auto parts between the two countries and forced the industry to cut production. Authorities lifted the siege last weekend after detaining dozens of protesters.

The final border blockade, in Manitoba, across from North Dakota, ended peacefully on Wednesday.

The protests were welcomed and received donations from conservatives in the United States

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Gillis reported from Toronto.

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