Ottawa police attempted to clear out the remaining “Freedom Convoy” demonstrators on Sunday — ending a 24-day occupation of the city’s center to protest COVID-19 vaccine mandates.
At least two people were arrested as police moved into the “logistics camp” and removed the last vehicles occupying the area, according to the Ottawa Citizen.
The convoy of trucks had caused traffic backups in the city for weeks.
A total of 191 protesters were arrested and 57 vehicles were towed since police began forcefully removing them on Friday.
The camp, located in a city parking lot on Coventry Road, amassed roughly 100 vehicles. Across the street, several tents had been erected for meetings and meals, as well as a trailer with heated toilets and two saunas, the paper reported.
Officials are now concerned that protesters, many of them truckers, will regroup outside of the capital and come back, shutting the city down again.
“We are trying to keep tabs on those that are leaving and potentially massing to come back,” Ottawa police chief Steve Bell said at a press conference on Sunday.
On Sunday, Ottawa police said businesses should feel comfortable reopening following the weeks-long demonstration.
“Businesses should feel safe to reopen if they had closed during this unlawful assembly,” Ottawa police said
“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.”
Bell said Ottawans can expect a heavy police presence in the area in the coming days. He told reporters at a press briefing on Sunday that his department has a long road ahead in restoring the public’s trust of his department.
“They woke up this morning to fencing and a very heavy police presence through the downtown core. While I know everyone is pleased to see many of the unlawful protesters are gone, this is not the normal state of our city,” Bell said.
“We know as a police service we have public trust to gain back.”
Police swooped into the areas occupied by protesters on Friday to squash the blockade leading to several scuffles between cops and demonstrators.
On Saturday, police used pepper spray and stun grenades to remove those who remained, clearing most of the area in front of parliament and next to the prime minister’s office.
“We told you to leave,” Ottawa police said in a tweet Saturday. “We gave you time to leave. We were slow and methodical, yet you were assaultive and aggressive with officers and the horses.”
Most of those arrested were slapped with mischief charges, and dozens of vehicles had been towed, including all those blocking one of Ottawa’s major streets, authorities said.
Ottawa represented the movement’s final stronghold after three weeks of trucker demonstrations and American border blockades created a political crisis for Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
In a controversial move Trudeau invoked Canada’s Emergency Act for the first time in the country’s history, giving the federal government broad power to restore order including freezing protesters’ financial accounts.