By Thomas I. Likness
Eagle News Service
(Eagle News) — Ottawa’s downtown streets are starting to return to normal as police have cleared out most of the protesters who occupied the city for 24 days.
Instead of Freedom Convoy demonstrators, cleanup crews are in the area clearing the mess and debris left behind after police cleared out the makeshift village where protesters lived.
Although checkpoints will remain in the area, police say the streets are safe.
“Businesses should feel safe to reopen if they had closed during this unlawful assembly,” Ottawa police said Sunday on Twitter. “A strong police presence will remain in the coming days.”
Interim Ottawa Police Chief Steve Bell says the challenge now is how to prevent protesters from returning.
“We are trying to or attempting to keep tabs on those that are leaving and being potentially massing to come back,” Bell told a news conference Sunday. “We will continue those efforts through our partnership with the RCMP and the OPP, continue to gather intelligence to make sure that these illegal activities don’t return to our streets.”
Police continue to move out protesters camped out in other parts of the city.
So far, nearly 200 people have been arrested and several dozen vehicles seized.
Need to rebuild trust
After more than three weeks of living with chaos, noise and intimidation,, Bell admits police have some work to do to regain the trust of Ottawa residents.
“This unlawful occupation of our streets has dramatically impacted people in the downtown core,” he said. “We know as a police service we have public trust to gain back.”
“Building that community trust and entering into community healing it is an absolutely vital next step for the Ottawa Police Service and out community partners,” said Bell.
(Eagle News Service)