Canada’s Ottawa declares emergency over ‘out of control’ truckers’ protest

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Canada's Ottawa declares emergency over 'out of control' truckers' protest

Ottawa capital mayor describes situation as “completely out of control,” saying opponents of anti-Covid measures “have far more people than we have police officers.

Ottawa’s mayor Jim Watson has declared a state of emergency to help deal with an unprecedented 10-day occupation by protesting truckers that has shut down much of the core of the Canadian capital.

“(This) reflects the serious danger and threat to the safety and security of residents posed by the ongoing demonstrations and highlights the need for support from other jurisdictions and levels of government,” he said in a statement on Sunday.

Watson, who complained earlier in the day that the demonstrators outnumbered police and controlled the situation, did not give details of what measures he might impose.

The truckers’ protest is now “completely out of control,” the mayor said earlier as the city centre remained blocked by opponents of anti-Covid measures.

The protesters, who first reached the capital on January 29, have parked their big rigs on city streets and put up tents and temporary shacks, paralysing the capital to the consternation of officials and the mounting frustration of many residents.

“The situation at this point is completely out of control,” Watson told a local radio station, adding that the protesters “have far more people than we have police officers.”

“Clearly, we are outnumbered and we are losing this battle,” he told CFRA radio. “This has to be reversed; we have to get our city back.”

Mayor calls protesters ‘insensitive’ 

Watson called the truckers “insensitive,” as they have continued “blaring horns and sirens and fireworks, and turning it into a party.”

The demonstrations began as protests by truckers angry with vaccine requirements when crossing the US-Canadian border, but have morphed into broader protests against Covid-19 health restrictions and the government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Locals have complained of the ceaseless sound of air horns and of being harassed, insulted or blocked by the protesters.

The truckers and their supporters have dug in, however, saying the protests will continue until the Covid-related restrictions are lifted.

Similar if smaller demonstrations hit the cities of Toronto, Quebec and Winnipeg on Saturday.

Police in Quebec said some 30 big trucks were blocking a major artery and had been warned they would face fines if they did not move soon.

In an emergency meeting on Saturday with Ottawa officials, police chief Peter Sloly complained that he lacked the resources to end what he called a “siege,” and asked for reinforcements.

Watson, in his interview, said 60 new Royal Canadian Mounted Police officers had been sworn in on Saturday to help manage the protest, and that more would be added within days.

“This group is a threat to our democracy,” city council member Diane Deans said Saturday. “What we’re seeing is bigger than just a city of Ottawa problem, this is a nationwide insurrection. This is madness.”

Residents facing ‘unacceptable distress’

The police said on Sunday that they had issued some 450 tickets since Saturday morning, for a variety of mostly minor infractions including excessive noise and use of fireworks, though one truck that turned out to be stolen was seized.

They said “extremely disruptive” protesters had in some cases endangered public safety, causing “unacceptable distress” to local residents.

Police have opened 97 investigations into possible criminal offences, the statement said.

In addition, it said, the police are “actively working with Canadian, US and international security agencies/authorities to investigate email-based threats to public officials.”

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