Ottawa, Feb 21 With 191 people arrested and 79 vehicles towed, the police have reclaimed Ottawa’s downtown from its occupiers 24 days after the trucker convoy rolled into the Canadian capital’s core.
The protesters, including truckers and their supporters, have gathered in Ottawa and blocked the city centre since January 28 to oppose the government’s vaccine requirement for truckers crossing into the US, prompting Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to invoke the Emergencies Act for the first time in history, reports Xinhua news agency.
“We promised we would return our city to a state of normalcy, with every hour we are getting closer to that goal,” interim chief of Ottawa Police Steve Bell said on Sunday afternoon in a press conference.
The streets around Parliament Hill are currently on lockdown, with only two police checkpoints for entry.
Bell told reporters that 107 people have been charged with 389 Criminal Code offences, including mischief, assault, disobeying a court order, obstructing police and assaulting a police officer.
Ottawa paramedics said 21 people have been transported to hospital with non-life-threatening injuries from the secured area in downtown Ottawa since Friday.
No fatalities were recorded.
Trudeau reiterated on Sunday that the government will support businesses in downtown Ottawa impacted by the blockades and occupation.
The government on Saturday announced up to C$20 million ($15 million) in investment to support downtown Ottawa businesses impacted by demonstrations.
Small businesses will be able to apply for non-repayable contributions of up to C$10,000 for non-deferrable operational costs not covered by other federal programs.
Police promised a “strong police presence” in the coming days and said businesses should “feel safe to reopen”.
“Businesses and residents, we thank you for your patience throughout this operation. Supporting local businesses is considered lawful if you are entering the secured area,” police said on Twitter.
Farel Husseini, an owner of a couple of restaurants in the downtown core, told Xinhua that there were fights in his restaurant between masked and unmasked protesters.
“For the three weeks, probably we had to forgo revenue of about 20-40 thousand Canadian dollars at one spot. The other spot probably declined around 10% in sales just because people were afraid to come in because of the altercations and stuff like that,” he said.
According to a CTV report, Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson didn’t say when secured checkpoints and the increased police presence would end.
“We’ll continue to have increased enforcement in and around the residential areas,” Watson said, noting police have promised not to leave until the city is “safely returned to the people of Ottawa”.