OTTAWA, ON – People protesting against Canada’s COVID-19 mandates and restrictions in the nation’s capital on Friday are reportedly putting children between police and demonstrators as officers begin arrests in an effort to clear the protest site.
Ottawa police tweeted Friday afternoon that protesters were putting children between police operations and the protest site, which Canadian officials have identified as an unlawful occupation of the city. Demonstrators have gathered in Ottawa, and several other locations throughout Canada, over the last few weeks, denouncing the country’s COVID-19 mandates for truck drivers.
Protestors have put children between police operations and the unlawful protest site.— Ottawa Police (@OttawaPolice) February 18, 2022
The children will be brought to a place of safety.
Ottawa police said Friday that children will be “brought to a place of safety,” though it was not immediately clear what that meant. On Thursday, the department tweeted that police would work in collaboration with the Children’s Aid Society of Ottawa to “to ensure the safety and wellbeing of children and youth at the current demonstration in the downtown core.”
Law enforcement began arresting protesters in Ottawa on Friday, three weeks after demonstrators set up a protest site in what officials call a “siege” of the nation’s capital. Police made their first move to clear the protest site on Thursday night when they arrested two protest leaders.
Hundreds of officers took to the protest site on Friday following days of warnings that urged demonstrators to clear the area. Ottawa police repeatedly warned protesters that they would face “severe penalties” if they did not remove themselves, their vehicles and/or their property from the “unlawful protest sites.”
What you are seeing are Public Order Units in a line formation. Protestors are continuously being told to leave, or they face arrest.— Ottawa Police (@OttawaPolice) February 18, 2022
You will see the line slowly moving forward to give people who want to leave the opportunity to do so.
#ottawa #ottnews pic.twitter.com/5hUo9NuuNi
As of 11:53 a.m. on Friday, Ottawa police said that 15 people were arrested and four vehicles were towed so far. Police reportedly waited to move in on protesters for fear of violence, especially after the demonstrations attracted right-wing extremists and veterans, some of them armed.
Ottawa Police Chief Peter Sloly was ousted on Tuesday due to criticism over his inaction against trucker protests in the city.
The Ottawa demonstration represented the last stronghold of the COVID-related protests seen around the country, including the so-called Freedom Convoy’s blockade at the Ambassador Bridge in Windsor, which disrupted travel and trade between the U.S. and Canada for a week.
The Ambassador Bridge officially reopened for travel on Sunday, Feb. 13.