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Police charge 12 and break up downtown demonstration demanding change for Black and Indigenous people

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“The demonstration disrupted regular traffic and blocked an important route for emergency responders. This caused multiple safety issues,” police said in a release Saturday.

Police moved in at 3:30 a.m. to remove the demonstrators after issuing “multiple warnings.”

Approximately 100 protesters gathered around 9 a.m. Saturday to rally outside of Ottawa police headquarters at 474 Elgin St., demanding the immediate release of the arrested demonstrators.

Protesters for Indigenous and Black rights rallied outside Ottawa police headquarters on Elgin Street, Saturday, Nov. 21, 2020, where they demanded the release of 12 people arrested early Saturday morning, after another protest was shut down. Photo by Ashley Fraser /Postmedia
Ottawa -- November 21, 2020 -- Protesters for Indigenous and Black rights rallied outside Ottawa police headquarters on Elgin Street, Saturday, Nov. 21, 2020, where they demanded the release of 12 people arrested early Saturday morning, after another protest was shut down. ASHLEY FRASER, POSTMEDIA
Protesters for Indigenous and Black rights rallied outside Ottawa police headquarters on Elgin Street, Saturday, Nov. 21, 2020, where they demanded the release of 12 people arrested early Saturday morning, after another protest was shut down. Photo by Ashley Fraser /Postmedia
Ottawa -- November 21, 2020 -- Protesters for Indigenous and Black rights rallied outside Ottawa police headquarters on Elgin Street, Saturday, Nov. 21, 2020, where they demanded the release of 12 people arrested early Saturday morning, after another protest was shut down. ASHLEY FRASER, POSTMEDIA
Protesters for Indigenous and Black rights rallied outside Ottawa police headquarters on Elgin Street, Saturday, Nov. 21, 2020, where they demanded the release of 12 people arrested early Saturday morning, after another protest was shut down. Photo by Ashley Fraser /Postmedia

At least seven protesters had been released by mid-Saturday morning, organizers announced to people gathered at the protest.

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“We will mobilize until all arrested protesters are released and all charges are dropped,” said group Justice for Abdirahman in an Instagram post.

Shortly after 10 a.m., protesters spilled out onto the streets, shutting down Elgin between Catherine Street and Argyle Avenue.

Police advised the duration of road closure is unknown and motorists should consider alternative routes. Front desk services at police headquarters, including the collision reporting centre, were also closed due to the demonstration.

“Members of the public are encouraged to attend either 3343 St Joseph Blvd or 211 Huntmar Dr if they need to file a report in person,” police said.

Several hours before police broke up the protest, the Ottawa Black Diaspora Coalition, which was participating in the demonstration, tweeted at 12:46 a.m. Saturday that protesters had secured a meeting with city officials and the Ottawa police board to discuss their demands.

Ottawa -- November 21, 2020 -- Protesters for Indigenous and Black rights rallied outside Ottawa police headquarters on Elgin Street, Saturday, Nov. 21, 2020, where they demanded the release of 12 people arrested early Saturday morning, after another protest was shut down. ASHLEY FRASER, POSTMEDIA
Protesters for Indigenous and Black rights rallied outside Ottawa police headquarters on Elgin Street, Saturday, Nov. 21, 2020, where they demanded the release of 12 people arrested early Saturday morning, after another protest was shut down. Photo by Ashley Fraser /Postmedia

“We will still be occupying Laurier and Nicholas tomorrow so please still show up and await updates!” the tweet reads.

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Shortly after 7 a.m. Saturday, the Justice for Abdirahman group tweeted it was a “disgusting tactic to promise community meetings in the morning with city council & ottawa police services board and then ARREST US IN THE DEAD OF NIGHT. BETRAYAL!!!!!”

In a statement, the Ottawa police board said chair Diane Deans, and board members Coun. Rawlson King and Daljit Nirman agreed to meet with members of the Justice for Abdirahman Coalition “for the purposes of a constructive dialogue” Saturday at noon.

“Regrettably, following the apprehension of demonstrators early this morning by the Ottawa Police Service, the community members have since declined to meet,” said Deans in the statement. “We remain at City Hall willing and open to talk. While we understand the concern with the decision to remove the demonstrators, the Board cannot interfere in the operational decisions of the Service and was therefore not involved in this action. The police make operational decisions based on risk assessments and ensuring the safety of the public.”

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