Police wearing helmets and shields made several arrests in Canada’s capital after facing off against protesters opposed to Covid-19 mandates.
HGVs attempted to make their way to Parliament Hill as part of the Rolling Thunder rally, organised by Freedom Fighters Canada, a group dedicated to speaking out against Covid-19 mandates.
Many of the protesters were also part of the three-week Freedom Convoy demonstration that gridlocked parts of Ottawa earlier this year with lorries, prompting Canada’s federal government to invoke the Emergencies Act for the first time.
That protest ended after hundreds of police officers moved in to disperse the crowds, making dozens of arrests.
Ottawa police promised on Friday that protesters would not be allowed to get a foothold for a prolonged occupation.
More than 800 reinforcements were called in from the RCMP, Ontario Provincial Police and regional police services to guard every major downtown intersection and prevent protesters from bringing vehicles into the area.
Things started calmly, with shouts of “freedom” as protesters mingled and danced on Wellington Street, the main road in front of Parliament Hill. Protesters also marched through the ByWard Market with a police escort.
But early in the evening police warned of a large convoy trying to make its way into the city. Soon, hundreds of protesters were crowded around large trucks and campers just outside the parliamentary precinct.
Protesters yelled “hold the line”, trying to push police officers away from the vehicles. Police attempted to push the crowds away from the trucks and back towards Parliament Hill.
By late Friday afternoon, city bylaw officers said they had issued 185 tickets and towed away 20 vehicles related to the rally.
The Rolling Thunder group has not been clear about the cause they are rallying for, except to say they will be in Ottawa to “peacefully celebrate our freedom”.
A statement on the Rolling Thunder website attributed to organiser Neil Sheard says the protesters plan to leave on Sunday, and they do not support “blockades, obstruction of police performing their duties, damage to property or hate and vitriol directed to the residents of Ottawa”.