Canadian police have started arresting so-called Freedom Convoy protesters in a bid to end their three-week occupation of Ottawa.
Hundreds of truck drivers outraged by COVID restrictions have crippled the capital city, prompting Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to assume emergency powers.
At least eight people have been detained without the use of force – including two of the protest leaders, who were apprehended late on Thursday and face charges of mischief and obstructing police.
Many truckers remain defiant
Some demonstrators surrendered and were taken into custody, according to police, while others were seen being led away in handcuffs.
Officers went door to door along a line of trucks, campers and other vehicles parked on Ottawa’s snow-covered streets.
Some wore tactical unit uniforms and carried automatic weapons.
One person being led away held a sign that read “Mandate Freedom”.
Many of the truckers remained defiant.
“Freedom was never free,” said trucker Kevin Homaund, of Montreal. “So what if they put the handcuffs on us, and they put us in jail?”
City centre sealed off
Much of the city centre was sealed off to outsiders on Thursday to prevent them from helping the protesters.
Police made it clear they were preparing to end the protest and remove the more than 300 trucks on site.
The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, citing security sources, said authorities had set up temporary detention centres around Ottawa.
Hundreds of officers could be seen in central Ottawa, where 20cm of snow fell overnight, with temperatures that feel like -23C.
100 checkpoints set up
Some 100 checkpoints were set up to prevent any more people from joining the protest near the Canadian parliament.
The House of Commons cancelled its Friday sitting due to expected police action.
After police were accused of failing to tackle the protests, Mr Trudeau invoked emergency powers on Monday which allowed law enforcement to declare the blockades as illegal, tow trucks, arrest the drivers, suspend their licences and freeze their bank accounts.
It was the first time the Emergencies Act had been invoked in 50 years.
The demonstrations around the country initially focused on Canada’s vaccine requirement for truckers entering the country, but soon turned into a wider attack on COVID restrictions and Mr Trudeau’s government.
The largest border blockade at the Ambassador Bridge between Windsor, Ontario, and Detroit, disrupted the flow of car parts between Canada and the US and affected production.
The siege was lifted last weekend after authorities arrested dozens of protesters.