Canadian police make last-ditch push to end week-long protest in capital

OTTAWA, Feb 20 (Reuters) – Canadian police are making perhaps the last push on Sunday to rid the capital of protesters who have crippled it by parking and camping in the streets for more than three weeks to protest related restrictions to the pandemic.

Police have made 170 arrests and towed 53 vehicles since they began efforts to end a protest on Friday morning that forced Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to invoke rarely used emergency powers.

On Saturday, police used pepper spray and stun grenades to drive out the hardline protesters who remained, clearing most of the area in front of parliament and next to the prime minister’s office.

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But there are still pockets of entrenched protesters. Some of those arrested Saturday were wearing body armor and had smoke grenades and other fireworks in their bags and vehicles, police said.

“This operation continues to move forward. It is not complete and it will take time before we achieve our goals,” Ottawa Police Acting Chief Steve Bell said Saturday.

Protesters initially wanted to end cross-border COVID-19 vaccination mandates for truckers, but the blockade turned into a protest against Trudeau and the government.

Trudeau on Monday invoked emergency powers to give his government broader authority to stop protests, including sweeping powers to freeze the accounts of people suspected of supporting blockades, without obtaining a court order. Read more

“The police are scouring the streets in a methodical and responsible manner. It’s encouraging, but the job is not yet finished,” Public Security Minister Marco Mendicino said on Saturday.

The protesters, who were filmed by police, will be held accountable, Bell said.

“We will actively seek to identify you and pursue financial penalties and criminal prosecution. … This investigation will continue for months.”

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Reporting by Steve Scherer; Editing by Richard Chang

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