Ottawa’s top cop: Police likely can’t end vaccine protests
OTTAWA, Ontario (AP) — The police chief of Canada’s capital said Wednesday there is likely no policing solution to end a protest against vaccine mandates and other pandemic restrictions that has snarled traffic around Parliament.
He also said there is a “significant element” of the protest’s funding and organization coming from the United States.
Thousands of protesters descended on Ottawa over the weekend, deliberately blocking traffic around Parliament Hill. Police estimate the protest involved 8,000 to 15,000 people Saturday, but has since dwindled to several hundred. But trucks were still blocking traffic.
“We are now aware of a significant element from the United States that have been involved in the funding, the organizing and the demonstrating. They have converged on our city and there are plans for more to come,” Ottawa Police Chief Peter Sloly said.
Organizers, including one who has espoused white supremacist views, raised millions for the cross-Canada “freedom truck convoy” against vaccine mandates. There was a public GoFundMe page.
The protesting truckers also have received praise from former U.S. President Donald Trump and tweets of support from Tesla billionaire Elon Musk.
Ottawa residents frustrated with the incessant blare of truck horns and traffic gridlock are questioning how police have handled the demonstration.
“There is likely no policing solution to this,” Sloly said.
Many Canadians have been angered by some of the crude behavior of the protesters. Some urinated or parked on the National War Memorial. One danced on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. A number carried signs and flags with swastikas.
The most visible contingent of protesters were truck drivers who parked their big rigs on Parliament Hill. Some of them were protesting a rule that took effect Jan. 15 requiring truckers entering Canada to be fully immunized against the coronavirus. The Canadian Trucking Alliance has estimated that 85% of truckers in Canada are vaccinated.
Meanwhile, officials said there had been some movement toward resolving a protest blockade at the United States border in southern Alberta.
Chad Williamson, a lawyer representing truckers blocking access to the crossing at Coutts, Alberta, said they spoke with police and agreed to open some blocked lanes. Royal Canadian Mounted Police Corporal Curtis Peters said there were indications that the lane openings might only be temporary.
Demonstrators began parking their trucks and other vehicles near the crossing Saturday in solidarity with the protest in Ottawa.
The tie-up stranded travelers and cross-border truckers for days. Police tried to peacefully break up the demonstration Tuesday, but demonstrators breached a nearby checkpoint.
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