Small businesses in Ottawa will receive financial aid as police push to end protests

For weeks, protesters and idling trucks have been blockading the streets of Canada’s capital, where demonstrators have insisted on staying until Covid-19 preventative measures such as mask and vaccination requirements are lifted.
Tensions escalated Saturday when police employed pepper spray in order to disperse crowds, and protesters outside Wellington Street in front of Parliament were arrested, Ottawa Interim Police Chief Steve Bell said during a news conference.
“We have been here for three weeks, I have been at this podium for the last 5 days, imploring people to leave, asking them to get out of our streets,” Bell said. “This occupation is over, we have advised them that if they peacefully leave, they may go home, that still exists. We also indicated that we would escalate and forcibly remove people from the streets if they did not comply.”
Police made an additional 47 arrests Saturday as they continue to clear the downtown area. At least 170 people were arrested and several have been charged, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s office said Saturday.
Wellington Street was ultimately cleared of protesters, and police said they will persist in their efforts for a return to normalcy over the upcoming days.
Stuck in the middle of the contentious deadlock are the businesses in downtown Ottawa that have shuttered their doors due to the demonstrations.
Police arrest 47 of the remaining Covid-19 protesters in Ottawa
“For the past three weeks, many businesses in the downtown core have been unable to operate safely due to serious concerns caused by the blockades, which has resulted in significant financial losses for local businesses,” the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario said in a statement Saturday.
To address the economic hurdle, federal officials have allowed small businesses to apply for up to $10,000 they wouldn’t be required to pay back, the agency said. The funds, totaling up to $20 million, may only be used for non-deferrable operational costs not covered by other federal programs.
The end of the strife downtown may be nearing as authorities begin to show their presence on foot and on horseback. Along with mounting arrests, nearly 60 vehicles were towed over the weekend, police said.
Some of those arrests included protesters who allegedly had smoke grenades and fireworks and were wearing body armor, police said.
“Protesters continue to be aggressive and assaultive on officers. They are refusing to comply with the orders to move,” police tweeted midday Saturday. “You will have seen officers use a chemical irritant in an effort to stop the assaultive behavior and for officer safety.”
Officials have vowed to end the protests through unprecedent protocols, including invoking the Emergencies Act. The law allows the Canadian government to tap into military forces, but Trudeau has made it clear troops will not be needed.
Trudeau’s office on Saturday also pointed out that the costs of police forces as well as supply chain disruptions due to blockades have had an effect during the demonstrations.

Protests have escalated

The protests were initially sparked late last month by a group of truck drivers opposed to a Covid-19 vaccine and testing mandate. Over time, others outside the trucking industry have joined to express their frustration with a whole host of other Covid-19 health measures — especially requirements to wear masks in schools.
And despite threats of legal consequences for staying, many last week showed no signs of backing down.
Canadian police working to clear Ottawa downtown of protesters say they have arrested more than 100 demonstrators
On Friday, authorities said protesters assaulted officers and tried to remove their weapons. And on Saturday, police allege that a protester threw a gas canister.
“We were slow and methodical, yet you were assaultive and aggressive with officers and the horses. Based on your behavior, we are responding by including helmets and batons for our safety,” police said, addressing the protesters.
Two of the protests’ organizers were arrested and charged this week, authorities said.
Tamara Lich, 49, faces a counseling to commit the offense of mischief charge. She was scheduled to appear in court Saturday morning for her arraignment.
Christopher John Barber, 46, was charged with counseling to commit the offense of mischief, counseling to commit the offense of disobeying a court order, and counseling to commit the offense of obstructing police.
According to Barber’s attorney, Diane Magas, he contested a bail hearing Friday and was released on conditions and a bond.
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