Canada's Ottawa declares emergency over protests against COVID-19 restrictions
The Mayor of Canada's capital Ottawa, Jim Watson, declared a state of emergency on Sunday as people protesting against COVID-19 restrictions continued to paralyze the city's downtown. Earlier on Sunday, Watson said the ongoing truckers' protest in the city is "out of control," and the protesters have "outnumbered" police officers. "We are losing this battle..this has to be reversed," he added.
Why does the story matter?
The protest was started by truckers against a vaccine requirement for cross-border transportation. However, it gradually grew into a large demonstration against the Trudeau government's coronavirus regulations. The protest has also gained support from the opposition lawmakers and has reportedly been joined by kids, elderly and disabled people. Notably, Canada has one of the highest COVID-19 vaccination rates in the world.
'Declaration reflects danger, threat posed by protest'
A statement from the mayor said the state of emergency "reflects the serious danger and threat to the safety and security of residents posed by the ongoing demonstrations." It also "highlights the need for support from other jurisdictions and levels of government," the statement added.
'Protests to continue until the restrictions are lifted'
The protesters, who reached the capital on January 29, have reportedly parked their big rigs on city streets and put up tents and temporary shacks. Thousands of others have also descended in Ottawa again on the weekend, joining a hundred who remained since last weekend. The truckers and their supporters have maintained that the protest will continue until COVID-19-related restrictions are lifted.
Locals complain of protesters blaring horns non-stop
Meanwhile, locals have complained of non-stop blaring horns and of being harassed, insulted, or blocked by the protesters. Watson also called the truckers "insensitive," as they have continued "blaring horns and sirens and fireworks, and turning it into a party."
Ottawa police chief called the protest a 'siege'
In an emergency meeting with Ottawa officials on Saturday, police chief Peter Sloly called the protest a "siege." He complained that he lacked the resources to end the protest and asked for reinforcement. Notably, Ottawa Police will soon be reinforced by 250 Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Meanwhile, police on Sunday announced new measures to stop people from helping the protesters keep up their sit-in.
Threat to democracy: City council member
Diane Deans, a city council member, said, "This group (protesters) is a threat to our democracy." "What we're seeing is bigger than just a city of Ottawa problem, this is a nationwide insurrection. This is madness," Deans added.
Police have opened 97 investigations
On Sunday, the police said they have issued around 450 tickets for minor law violations such as excessive noise and the use of fireworks since Saturday morning. Police have also opened 97 investigations into possible criminal offenses. A statement from the police said they are "actively working with Canadian, the United States, and international security agencies/authorities to investigate email-based threats to public officials."
Protest spread to other cities as well
Notably, smaller but similar protests have also spread to other cities such as Toronto, Quebec, and Winnipeg on Saturday. In Quebec, around 30 big trucks were blocking a major artery, the police said.