Ottawa: Canadian police on Friday arrested 70 demonstrators and towed away dozens of vehicles, raising authorities' hopes for an end to the three-week protest against the country's COVID-19 restrictions.
"As of 3:00 pm today, we've arrested 70 people," Ottawa interim police chief Steve Bell told a news conference, adding that they've been charged with "multiple and various offenses, including mischief."
"We're in control of the situation on the ground and continue to push forward to clear our streets," he said. "This methodical and well-resourced plan will take time and we are here to see it through to a safe ending."
There have been no serious injuries, Bell said.
But with hundreds of protesters with big rigs estimated to still be refusing to go, the gradual clearance process was likely to continue into the weekend.
The crackdown on the so called Freedom Convoy began in the morning, when hundreds of police, descended into the protest zone and began leading demonstrators away in handcuffs as holdout truckers blared their horns in protest.
An AFP journalist saw several demonstrators led away in handcuffs as police and tow trucks moved in.
A few demonstrators were wrestled to the ground, and at least one who refused to exit his truck had his windows smashed and was dragged out by police. Most simply surrendered.
The "Freedom Convoy" started with truckers protesting against mandatory Covid vaccines to cross the US border, but its demands have grown to include an end to all pandemic rules and, for many, a wider anti-establishment agenda.
Police on Thursday had given protesters a final warning to leave, as barricades went up to restrict access to the downtown protest zone and surrounding neighborhoods -- encompassing more than 500 acres (200 hectares).
Criticized for failing to act decisively to end the protests, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau this week invoked the Emergencies Act, which gives the government sweeping powers to deal with a major crisis.
It's only the second time such powers have been invoked in peacetime.
Authorities also froze the bank accounts of protesters and chocked off crowdfunding and cryptocurrency transactions supporting the truckers.