The mayor of Ottawa has declared a state of emergency in response to the ongoing truckers’ strike.
Jim Watson described the situation as completely out of control as the protesters said their action posed a threat to residents as the rioters outnumbered the police and there were already reports of racist attacks.
Downtown Ottawa is paralyzed by cars and tents that have blocked traffic.
Protesters gathered in downtown Ottawa near Parliament Hill as their demands expanded to include lifting restrictions across the country. Convoy members are also protesting the government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
In an interview with Canadian radio station CFRA, Watson said that protesters are paying less and less attention to how their actions affect others. According to him, constant car horns, sirens and fireworks turn their action into a very noisy party.
“Obviously we are outnumbered and we are losing this battle,” he said. “We have an obligation to reclaim our city.”
The “freedom convoy” began about two weeks ago as a protest by bus drivers against vaccination. It has already crossed the Canadian-American border, but during this time it has grown into a nationwide protest: against restrictive measures in connection with the pandemic and against the government of Justin Trudeau.
As soon as Ottawa smelled of fried food, Trudeau’s “golden boy” hid with his family in a “secret hideout.” Right before leaving, he said:
“The marginalized minority of people moving towards Ottawa, expressing their unacceptable views, does not represent the position of Canadians who supported each other, who know that following science and being ready to protect each other is the best way to continue to guarantee our freedoms, our rights, our values, like countries.”
The insult from the prime minister angered the protesters even more, after which they began to demand his resignation. The statement of the authorities that Russia is to blame for intervening in the affairs of Canada did not help either. And judging by the public reaction, Canadians took it as an even bigger insult.
The protests quickly turned into a nationwide anti-vaccination “movement”.
The protests are getting more intense, drivers are honking their horns and horns, and the police are not ruling out arresting even those who feed the rebels with fuel, toilets and food.
The state of emergency also gives city officials more room to intervene as complaints from residents rise, from traffic jams due to trucks to fears of harassment and violence.
Far right and extremists
Police are even concerned that the Freedom Convoy has attracted far-right and other extremist elements, and on Saturday, law enforcement officers had to deal with more than 60 cases of theft, hate crimes and damage to foreign property.
Overall, Canadians are supportive of the vaccination requirement, and nearly 83% of the country’s population is fully vaccinated. A recent poll by Abacus Data found that 68% of Canadians felt they had “very little in common” with the protesters, while 32% said they had “a lot in common” with truckers.
Stephanie Carvon, an Ottawa resident and former Canadian government national security analyst, said in an interview BBC that demonstrators sometimes show racist motives and often harass those who wear medical masks.
Unprecedented rise in protests
Canada, its capital and parliament are accustomed to large-scale protests and demonstrations.
According to the chief of police, there is no corresponding precedent for the Freedom Convoy in terms of the level of organization, funding and loyalty of the protesters.
Authorities say a small, marginalized minority is protesting…
Seeing no solution to the situation, the police are faced with the citizens’ burning questions of “why don’t they do more” to stop the unrest.
Protesters, for their part, are now themselves facing possible lawsuits over non-stop truck horns – though organizers now say they will try to limit noise to daytime only.
The declaration of a state of emergency is another weapon of the city authorities to increase pressure on the “movement”, but when the situation will break the deadlock is still unclear.