Ottawa mayor declares state of emergency over convoy protests

Ottawa’s mayor has declared a state of emergency in the face of ongoing protests clogging streets and causing chaos in the core of Canada’s capital. Caryn Ceolin with the growing frustration over the local response, as leaders pass the buck.

By News Staff and The Canadian Press

Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson declared a state of emergency in his city on Sunday in the face of ongoing protests that have overwhelmed local resources and strained the faith of local residents hoping for an end to the situation.

In a brief release, the city says the decision reflects the “serious danger and threat to the safety and security of residents” from protesters encamped through much of the downtown core.

The move gives the city some flexibility to more quickly procure supplies, some of which the brief release noted could help purchase equipment required by frontline workers and first responders.

But anything beyond that isn’t clear, given that the city’s legal staff on Saturday told the police services board an emergency declaration, beyond its symbolic value, doesn’t give police or the city any new legal powers.

Watson’s declaration marked the end of the second weekend of the so-called Freedom Convoy taking over much of the capital’s downtown core, with trucks clogging streets and protesters occupying sidewalks in front of Parliament Hill and into nearby residential areas.

The release also says the decision underlines the need for support from upper levels of governments.

Earlier on Sunday, Ontario’s solicitor general reiterated the province’s commitment to assisting the nation’s capital in maintaining law and order during the protests.

Sylvia Jones said more than 1,500 Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) officers have been on the ground in Ottawa, as well as RCMP officers and officers from municipal police services across Ontario.

“I want to stress that policing protests is a responsibility carried out by local police services across Ontario, who have the resources and authority to ensure their communities remain safe,” said Jones. “Politicians at all levels cannot direct the police.”

A swell of 250 RCMP officers bolstered police presence in Ottawa on Sunday.

RELATED: Ottawa police ticket hundreds of convoy protesters so far this weekend

On Sunday night, police in Ottawa started their crackdown on supplies, raiding a parking lot used by organizers as a logistical hub to seize litres of fuel and arrest two people for mischief.

Five others were arrested, including two downtown, where police also appeared on Sunday night to be taking fuel used to keep cars idling in the bitter Ottawa cold. Police had earlier in the day threatened arrest for anyone bringing items like gasoline or supplies to protesters and the 500 vehicles downtown.

Police said they have launched more than 60 criminal investigations related to the protest, and issued more than 100 tickets on Sunday alone, including for “excessive honking.” Hundreds more tickets were issues Saturday for red light violations, driving a vehicle on a sidewalk and setting off fireworks, among other offenses.

More than 450 tickets were issued between the morning of Saturday, February 5 and Sunday, February 6 at 11 a.m.

Police say they have responded to more than 650 calls in relation to the demonstrations since they began last weekend.

Files from Kelsey Patterson have been used in this report

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