Standoff between protesters and massive police operation stretches into night
Convoy leader Chris Barber granted bail on condition he leave Ottawa
Protesters in Ottawa are standing face-to-face with police officers as the day-long standoff stretches into the night, with more streets still to clear.
In the slow push to take back occupied streets in the nation's capital, the line of confrontation between police and protesters now hums in front of the Senate of Canada building.
Police have said protesters are assaulting police officers and police horses during efforts to end the three-week occupation in downtown Ottawa.
Officers were seen Friday moving along Colonel By Drive, Sussex Drive, Mackenzie Avenue and Rideau and Wellington streets in "public order units" arresting protesters and towing vehicles.
The latest count of those arrested sits at more than 100 people, according to local police. That's an increase of 30 from the last update given at about 4 p.m. A total of 21 vehicles have been towed.
Officers smashed the window of one truck to pull out the occupant and arrest him. Protesters who refused to move were arrested one by one before they were taken away by pairs of officers.
At a news conference Friday afternoon, interim Ottawa police Chief Steve Bell credited the federal Emergencies Act, the Ontario state of emergency, the local state of emergency and a court injunction for providing tools to help officers deal with protesters.
"Without the authorities that have been provided to us through these pieces of legislation, we wouldn't be able to be doing the work we are today," Bell said.
Then in a series of tweets issued Friday evening, Ottawa police said officers were being assaulted as they tried to dismantle the occupation, as well as dealing with attempts by protesters to take officers' weapons.
Police said mounted officers were used to "create critical space" between protesters and police, and while doing so, one person allegedly threw a bicycle at one of the horses. That person was arrested.
The protesters continued their assaultive behaviour with the police line, to prevent an escalation or further injury, mounted officers were sent in to create critical space between the police line and protesters. This is done to create a safe distance. <a href="https://t.co/PUIj7w1rwc">pic.twitter.com/PUIj7w1rwc</a>—@OttawaPolice
Just 90 minutes before that tweet, Bell had said officers have been "nothing short of exceptional" handling protesters in the face of taunts and slurs.
Several organizers arrested
CBC News has confirmed that one of the convoy leaders, Pat King, was among the protesters arrested on Friday. Two other organizers, Tamara Lich and Chris Barber, were arrested on Thursday.
Convoy organizer Pat King has been arrested by Ottawa police. King was live-streaming his arrest on Facebook just minutes ago. He, too, is expected to face criminal charges. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/ottnews?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#ottnews</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/FreedomConvoyCanada?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#FreedomConvoyCanada</a>—@shaaminiwhy
The public order units included officers in high-visibility yellow jackets moving in large groups, several ranks deep. They were seen heading west along Wellington slowly moving protesters toward Parliament Hill as members of the crowd pushed back against police.
Earlier Friday officers were seen moving another group north toward the ByWard Market from Colonel By to Sussex.
Behind the first lines of officers, tactical teams wearing green camouflage-type gear. Police were also moving a number of black light-armoured vehicles slowly behind the officers who were on foot.
Dozens of officers also created a box-shaped area at the corner of Mackenzie and Rideau where a similarly-sized group of protesters gathered at a barrier they created between the temporary Senate building and the Château Laurier hotel on Wellington.
- Truckers say they'll face arrests peacefully — but will defend their rights
- Convoy protest organizers Tamara Lich, Chris Barber arrested in Ottawa
The tense atmosphere was pierced with protesters shouting "Hold the line," and choruses of "O Canada" while police and protesters faced each other just inches apart. Every five minutes or so, police would step forward as a unit, moving protesters and slowly relocating them.
Despite the heightened tensions, police said they continued to engage in conversations with protesters and regularly provided warnings, through social media and other means, indicating that anyone in the "red zone" would be arrested if they didn't leave.
Bell reiterated officers would take their time and remain in place until the protests come to a safe end.
Law enforcement action is 'surreal'
Ottawa city councillor Carol Anne Meehan said, after waiting three weeks, it was "surreal" to watch law enforcement sweep protesters.
Meehan, who just resigned from the Ottawa Police Services Board, said there were only 100 officers between the Ontario Provincial Police and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police last weekend compared to the influx seen on Friday.
"The former chief of police had to give everyone directions to try to keep the peace and keep people safe," said Meehan.
"Engaging protesters, arresting them, and doing some of the action we're seeing today wasn't possible in the last few weeks. We didn't have the resources."
She did warn protests won't be over for "quite some time."
"The people who are down there, some of them almost want to be martyrs," said Meehan. "The challenge going forward is going to be how do we prevent this from happening again?"
Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson called the protesters' behaviour disgraceful and also thanked local officers and those who have come from across the country to assist Ottawa police.
Even though officers continue to allow protesters to leave, Watson told CBC's Power & Politics that does not mean they won't face consequences. Even if they're not charged immediately, he said the city plans to pursue any tickets handed out throughout the protest.
"They're not getting a get-out-of-jail-free card."
Protesters put children in harm's way, police say
CBC reporters on the ground also reported police officers removing children from the protest site. One man who was arrested by police was being taken away while his family members, including children, were being led along behind him.
"Even through all the planning, it still shocks and surprises me that we are seeing children put in harm's way in the middle of a demonstration where a police operation is unfolding," said Bell.
"We implore all the parents who have kids in there, get the kids out of there. They do not need to be in the middle of this. It is not a safe place for them."
The Children's Aid Society of Ottawa said Friday it was working with police to keep children in the downtown core safe, but as of late Friday afternoon Bell said the organization had not been involved as of yet.
Protestors have put children between police operations and the unlawful protest site. <br><br>The children will be brought to a place of safety.—@OttawaPolice
Most of the protesters refusing to move could be seen recording video of officers holding their positions.
At the same time, a number of protesters settled in for the day nearby with small tents and fires to stay warm, while others rebuilt a stage near Parliament Hill.
Dozens of semi-trucks remained in the early afternoon and protesters tried to take advantage of an overnight winter storm by building snow barriers. Some trucks were seen leaving the downtown core throughout Friday.
WATCH | Police move on Ottawa protesters, making arrests:
Secure perimeter limits access to downtown core
Police first closed several streets Thursday and established some 100 checkpoints to restrict traffic and prevent more protesters from the downtown core. Those closures choked off-ramps leading from Highway 417 into the city's downtown with exits closed from St. Laurent Boulevard to Parkdale Avenue.
Ottawa's light rail service was disrupted due to the downtown lockdown, too, and the Parliament Hill station remains closed.
Ottawa police also faced attempts to flood the 911 and non-emergency police lines on Friday, which was the second instance during the three-week occupation.
"This endangers lives and is completely unacceptable," the force wrote on Twitter. "We track calls and will charge anyone deliberately interfering with emergencies."
Police also issued a warning Friday for media to be cautious in the area of the operation to ensure no journalists are taken into custody.
The House of Commons cancelled its Friday sitting due to expected police action on Wellington Street and other parts of downtown, temporarily suspending the debate on the use of the Emergencies Act.
According to the Speaker's office, all parties agreed to cancel Friday's sittings on the advice of parliamentary security. Parliamentarians remain hopeful they will be able resume debate on Saturday.
Key convoy organizer granted bail
Before the larger set of arrests began police arrested Barber and Lich on Thursday.
Barber, a 46-year-old from Swift Current, Sask., is facing charges of counselling to commit mischief, counselling to commit the offence of disobeying a court order, counselling to obstruct police, and interfering with the use and enjoyment of property.
On the condition he leave Ottawa and then the province, Barber was granted bail Friday evening. He's also not permitted to support the convoy or contact any of the other main organizers.
Lich, a 49-year-old from Medicine Hat, Alta., was charged with counselling to commit the offence of mischief. She is scheduled to appear in court Saturday morning.
Pat King is also expected to face criminal charges.
With files from Peter Zimonjic, Shaamini Yogaretnam and Joanne Chianello