Police chief describes situation as a ‘siege’ as thousands of protesters join demonstrations against Covid restrictions
The Guardian-Associated Press
The mayor of Canada’s capital declared a state of emergency Sunday and a former US ambassador to Canada said groups in the US must stop interfering in the domestic affairs of America’s neighbour as protesters opposed to Covid-19 restrictions continued to paralyse Ottawa’s downtown.
The mayor, Jim Watson, said the declaration highlights the need for support from other jurisdictions and levels of government. It gives the city some additional powers around procurement and how it delivers services, which could help purchase equipment required by frontline workers and first responders.
Thousands of protesters descended on Ottawa 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.
The “freedom truck convoy” has attracted support from many US Republicans including former president Donald Trump, who called the prime minister, Justin Trudeau, a “far-left lunatic” who has “destroyed Canada with insane Covid mandates”.
“Canada-US relations used to be mainly about solving technical issues. 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,” Bruce Heyman, a former US ambassador under president Barack Obama, tweeted.
Heyman said “under no circumstances should any group in the USA fund disruptive activities in Canada. Period. Full stop.”
After crowdfunding site GoFundMe said it would refund or redirect to charities the vast majority of the millions raised by demonstrators protesting in the Canadian capital, prominent US Republicans like Florida governor Ron DeSantis complained.
But GoFundMe had already changed its mind and said it would be issuing refunds to all. The site said it cut off funding for the organisers because it had determined the effort violated the site’s terms of service due to unlawful activity.
The Ontario premier, Doug Ford, has called it an occupation.
The Texas attorney general Ken Paxon tweeted: “Patriotic Texans donated to Canadian truckers’ worthy cause.” And Texas senator Ted Cruz said on Fox News “government doesn’t have the right to force you to comply to their arbitrary mandates”.
“For some senior American politicians, patriotism means renting a mob to put a G7 capital under siege,” tweeted Gerald Butts, a former senior adviser to Trudeau.
In Canada’s largest city, Toronto, police controlled and later ended a much smaller protest by setting up roadblocks and preventing any trucks or cars from getting near the provincial legislature. Police also moved in to clear a key intersection in the city.
Many Canadians have been outraged over the crude behaviour of the demonstrators. Some protesters set fireworks off on the grounds of the National War Memorial late Friday. A number have carried signs and flags with swastikas last weekend and compared vaccine mandates to fascism.
Protesters have said they won’t leave until all mandates and Covid-19 restrictions are gone. They are also calling for the removal of Trudeau’s government, though it is responsible for few of the measures, most of which were put in place by provincial governments.