Ottawa police began arresting Freedom Convoy protestors on Thursday, after threatening to do so earlier this week.
Authorities first arrested Tamara Lich and Chris Barber. Lich, who leads the Freedom Convoy, was said to be detained for “aiding and abetting mischief.”
The police began arresting people after they arrived at Ottawa’s downtown area, marking off huge areas of the city with checkpoints.
“It’s time to go,” said interim Ottawa Police Chief Steve Bell at a news conference. “Your time in our city has come to an end and you must leave.”
Bell explained that the police created a perimeter around the city, securing a zone for residents, workers, and police officers.
“I implore anyone that’s there: Get in your truck and we will navigate safe passage for you to leave our city streets,” Bell said. “We want this demonstration to end peacefully. There is a deliberate plan, there is commitment and there’s the resourcing that we now have in place to end this.”
Justin Trudeau invokes Emergencies Act
The Ottawa police force’s crackdown on the Freedom Convoy comes just two days after Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau invoked the Emergencies Act.
The Emergencies Act, which is almost never used by the Canadian government, gives Trudeau the ability to cut the protestors’ funding by seizing their accounts and backing up the law enforcement with federal forces.
“The blockades are harming our economy and endangering public safety,” Trudeau told the press on Monday. “We cannot and will not allow illegal and dangerous activities to continue.”
Trudeau’s choice to invoke the Emergencies Act has given Canadian banks the ability to freeze accounts suspected of being associated with funding the Freedom Convoy’s blockades, Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland explained.
“We are making these changes because we know that these (crowdfunding) platforms are being used to support illegal blockades and illegal activity which is damaging the Canadian economy,” said Freeland.
Canadian authorities believe that roughly half of the money being given to the protestors is coming from inside the United States.
Ontario had previously declared a state of emergency on Friday as Premier Doug Ford told the press that he “will convene Cabinet to use legal authorities to urgently enact orders that will make crystal clear it is illegal and punishable to block and impede the movement of good, people and service along with critical infrastructure.”
Ford also said that he will pursue new legal action against the protestors, which may mean hefty fines and jail time.
Freedom convoy protest in Ottawa against vaccine mandate
The protests began by truck drivers angry with the vaccine mandate for crossing the US-Canada border but have evolved into broader protests against COVID-19 health restrictions and the government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
Canadian Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino said that the government would not back down on the issue.
“We put the question of vaccines and vaccine mandates on the ballot … in the  election and we’re simply carrying out the promise that we made with the support of the vast majority of Canadians,” he said on CBC television.