Acting through the police department, the Canadian government arrested over 100 protestors from the Freedom Convoy truckers occupation of Ottawa this week. The truckers were protesting a mandatory vaccine requirement implemented by the liberal party of the Canadian government. Ottawa police brought in riot cops, mounted police, and armored vehicles to disperse the peaceful protests.
On Friday night, the police threatened to arrest anyone who did not comply. Officers smashed windows of trucks and dragged out the peaceful protestors one by one, arresting them on-site for refusing to comply with the medical demands of the state.
A third protest leader, Pat King, was arrested. On Thursday, police took organizers Tamara Lich and Chris Barber into custody, as well. Police smashed other car windows, as well, including a medical SUV carrying nurses and supplies into the protest. Police said they were checking to make sure the SUV was not carrying any weapons. They also tweeted late Friday night that nobody had died and been injured severely in the tussle with protestors.
Why can Canadian police arrest the peaceful truckers?
The crackdowns came as a result of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau invoking the Emergencies Act — a vague law meant to unilaterally centralize power for the state in times of civil unrest or conflict. Once he invoked the law, police intervention became a foregone conclusion.
Ottawa police said that they had towed away about 21 vehicles so far, though the numbers are constantly changing.
The show-of-power began with a tense face-off between a large contingent of Ottawa police dressed in blue tactical gear and brandishing rubber bullet guns. They confronted demonstrators near the Westin hotel on the edge of the police’s new “secured zone.”
As he watched cops advance, one protestor said: ‘This is a sledge hammer to kill a fly. 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.”
Demonstrators yelled “shame on you” and chanted at the police line, who stood immobile for at least two hours. One man stripped off his shirt and fell to his knees as he begged them to leave him alone.
Morale lifted as the day progressed
Police then methodically arrested dozens of truckers sitting in their vehicles. If the truckers complied with the police, then the arrests were peaceful. If they resisted, police breached the trucks and dragged them out. The arrested drivers all ended up sprawled in the snow with arms behind their backs and hands cuffed, like common criminals.
As the day drew on, police began escalating their aggressiveness, threatening arrests for any and all protestors within the emergency zone. The majority of the protest held rank, though, which seemed to lift their spirits in the face of such state-sponsored retaliation. One protestor, Eric, who would not give his last name, said he feels good about their progress.
“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. But we are not breaking any laws. We have lawyers saying that.”
He also said: “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.”