Canadian police have used pepper spray and stun grenades to disperse truckers and other demonstrators who had occupied the downtown core of the capital Ottawa in an effort to bring an end to three weeks of protests against the COVID-19 restrictions.
Police officers clashed with protesters who had gathered in front of the parliament building and the prime minister’s office on Saturday, arresting several people, a day after clearing part of the blockade and making more than 100 arrests.
"We told you to leave. We gave you time to leave. We were slow and methodical, yet you were assaultive and aggressive with officers and the horses," police said in a statement to the truckers posted on Twitter.
Police also used loud speakers to warn the crowd to disperse or face arrest. They also smashed vehicle windows to arrest people locked inside, while some loud bangs of stun grenades were heard.
Protesters were throwing smoke canisters, police said, adding that some of those arrested wore body armor and had smoke grenades and other fireworks in their bags and vehicles.
Ottawa has been gridlocked by a so-called "Freedom Convoy" consisting of truckers and other motorists for nearly three weeks now. The government has already declared a state of emergency in the city.
What started last month as a movement opposing a Canadian vaccine mandate for cross-border drivers, a requirement mirrored by a US rule, has morphed into a rallying point against the government’s public health measures.
The drivers have occupied areas outside government buildings in the capital city as well as three border crossings with the United States.
The government has already declared a state of emergency in Ottawa.
Canadian forces began an unprecedented operation to remove protesters and their trucks and cars in Ottawa on Friday, arresting more than 100 protesters and towing their vehicles on Friday.
Ottawa police further confirmed the arrests of two protest organizers, Tamara Lich, 49, and Christopher John Barber, 46.
Canada’s Freedom Convoy protest movement has sparked several similar protests across the globe.