Ottawa declares state of emergency as Canada trucker protest gridlocks city

The Guardian – Peter Beaumont/Agencies – Mon 7 Feb 2022

Police chief decries ‘siege’ after thousands of protesters join rallies against Covid restrictions.

The mayor of Ottawa has declared a state of emergency in the Canadian capital after a week-long protest by truck drivers over Covid-19 restrictions that has gridlocked its city centre and sparked allegations of interference in domestic affairs by groups from the US.

The “freedom truck convoy” began as a movement against a national vaccine requirement for truckers crossing the border from the US but has turned into a rallying point against public health measures in Canada.

The Ottawa mayor, Jim Watson, vowed to get “the city back” from protesters, and said the emergency declaration highlighted the need for support from other jurisdictions and levels of government. The protesters were behaving “insensitively” by continuously “blaring horns and sirens, [setting off] fireworks and turning it into a party”, he said. “Clearly, we are outnumbered and we are losing this battle. This has to be reversed.”

The state of emergency gives the city additional powers around procurement and how it delivers services, which could help it purchase equipment required by frontline workers and first responders.

The protests have drawn in US groups opposing Covid-19 restrictions and prominent Republican figures including Florida’s governor, Ron DeSantis, seen as a potential presidential contender in 2024, and Donald Trump, who called the prime minister, Justin Trudeau, a “far-left lunatic” who Had “destroyed Canada with insane Covid mandates”.

On Sunday, Bruce Heyman, a US ambassador under President Barack Obama, said this interference had to end.

“Canada-US relations used to be mainly about solving technical issues,’ he tweeted. “Today Canada is unfortunately experiencing radical US politicians involving themselves in Canadian domestic issues. Trump and his followers are a threat not just to the US but to all democracies.

“Under no circumstances should any group in the USA fund disruptive activities in Canada. Period. Full stop.”

Police in Ottawa announced that anyone attempting to bring support to the blockade, including gas, could be arrested. “Overnight, demonstrators exhibited extremely disruptive and unlawful behaviour, which presented risks to public safety and unacceptable distress for Ottawa residents,” according to a news release on the Ottawa police website.

The growing crackdown in Ottawa came as protests spread to other cities over the weekend, including Toronto, Edmonton, Halifax, and Vancouver.

Thousands of protesters descended on the capital again on the weekend, joining a hundred who remained since last weekend. Residents of Ottawa are furious at the nonstop blaring of horns, traffic disruption and harassment and fear no end is in sight after the police chief called it a “siege” that he could not manage.

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Posted by Teri Perticone


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