Chris Lange, FISM News
Police used batons, pepper spray, and stun grenades to clear the streets of Canada’s capital in the largest police operation in the country’s history.
Ottawa police fired non-lethal munitions from ARWEN 37 firearms at “violent” protesters whom they said had assaulted officers. A video from the operation also shows a woman getting trampled by police horses as they pushed through a crowd of protesters.
The crackdown ends a three-week Freedom Convoy demonstration by truckers protesting a cross-border vaccine mandate that quickly grew into a public rally against government overreach.
Ottawa police have said they will never again allow anyone to occupy the streets and have vowed to impose “financial sanctions and criminal charges” against every protester they identify. 191 demonstrators have been arrested so far and 79 vehicles were towed over the weekend as police vowed to continue tracking down those involved.
“If you are involved in this protest, we will actively look to identify you and follow up with financial sanctions and criminal charges,” Ottawa Police tweeted earlier Sunday.
— Ottawa Police (@OttawaPolice) February 20, 2022
Later in the evening, they issued a warning to lingering protesters, tweeting, “DEMONSTRATORS: 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.”
The department made good on Wednesday’s threat that anyone who did not remove their vehicles and leave “unlawful protest sites” would face severe penalties, as throughout the weekend police arrested and suspended the driver’s and/or commercial vehicle operating licenses of those who refused to leave. So far 206 bank and corporate accounts have been frozen, and one financial institution blocked a “payment processor” account holding nearly $3 million dollars. Police say they are still gathering information on additional companies and individuals involved in the Freedom Convoy rally.
As of Sunday, 76 vehicles had been impounded, according to a statement on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s official website.
Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson has suggested selling all seized big rigs to help pay costs incurred by the province over the course of the demonstrations, according to a CTV news report.
How can we confiscate those and sell those trucks to help pay for some of our costs? I don’t think the taxpayers of Ottawa should be paying for this multi-million dollar bill that we’re going to be saddled with because of the irresponsibility and the illegal activities of a bunch of truckers and others who showed little regard for our community and its people.
Though Ottawa’s streets are now clear, many say the political fallout from the protest is far from over.
News of the harsh police crackdown sparked both praise and condemnation on social media.
One Twitter user slammed the police for using unnecessary force against protesters, reposting a news headline indicating that Vancouver officers also fired ARWEN 37s on demonstrators, suggesting lawsuits are forthcoming.
I though you said nothing happened?
I'm seeing a lot of lawsuits coming your way.. pic.twitter.com/Qa3KWVfdIa
— Michael Nikolai (@MichaelNikolai5) February 21, 2022
Another retweeted a post from a user who said Vancouver police attempted to arrest cafe owners who supplied coffee to protesting truckers, stating that Canadians are witnessing “the destruction of the fabric of Canadian society.”
Others, however, praised the police for putting an end to the demonstrations from citizens who said the protests had gone on too long.
As of Sunday, 389 criminal charges had been filed against demonstrators. That number is expected to rise as police continue to try to identify and track down protesters.
Parliament continued debate Sunday over Trudeau’s invocation of unprecedented emergency powers to crack down on demonstrators. A vote will take place today, with the emergency powers expected to pass, despite rigorous objections from Canada’s Conservative parliament members. Trudeau has still refused to meet with the truckers he once hailed as “essential” in keeping commerce flowing during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic.