‘Lawlessness must end’: Canada police pledge tougher action on truck protests

Ottawa police announce 150 more officers will be deployed as 400 more trucks and 2,000 protesters expected to arrive

Police in Canada have promised tougher action against the “unlawful and unacceptably dangerous” protests paralyzing the nation’s capital, but admitted the situation was increasingly out of their control.

With 400 more trucks and 2,000 protesters expected to arrive in the city this weekend, Ottawa police on Friday announced that 150 additional officers will be deployed and concrete barricades set up to prevent more vehicles from reaching the city’s downtown core. Illegally parked vehicles will be towed and highways and bridges could be closed.

OTTAWA, CANADA, Jan 31, 2022: A truck driver chants in front of the parliament hill in Ottawa, Canada.
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“The surge [of officers] will deliver a clear message to the demonstrators: the lawlessness must end,” said Peter Sloly, the Ottawa police chief. Police have asked counter-protesters not to come to the city, amid fears of violence.

Hundreds of trucks have remained outside parliament for nearly a week in protest against public health measures. Sloly said that the police force took “no solace” in the fact that the current police strategy has so far prevented “riots, injuries and death”.

“The demonstrators in this red zone area remain highly organized, well-funded and extremely committed to resisting efforts to end the demonstration safely,” he said, adding that the situation remained “very volatile” amid reports that a number of protesters are believed have firearms.

Sloly said he and other officials had received death threats and likened the protest to the US Capitol attack when thousands of supporters of former president Donald Trump attempted to overturn Joe Biden’s election victory.

Trump said in a statement that the truckers were “peacefully protesting the harsh policies of far left lunatic Justin Trudeau who has destroyed Canada with insane Covid mandates”.

Organizers of the “Freedom Convoy” said at a press conference that their occupation of the city would continue until all levels of government eliminated Covid-19 restrictions and vaccine mandates – a demand widely seen as unrealistic.

On Thursday, protesters were seen building a wooden structure and stockpiling fuel.

The city’s police force has faced mounting criticism over its “measured” approach to the protest, which has frustrated and terrorized residents. Senior officers admitted they were surprised by the size and scale of the protest.

“If we knew it would seep into the neighbourhoods we would have deployed more resources into those communities,” said Steve Bell, the deputy police chief.

Catherine McKenney, a city councillor for Ottawa’s Centretown neighbourhood, accused police of abandoning residents, and described receiving daily reports of residents being yelled at, followed, intimidated and assaulted by protesters.

“What we have here is a federal government, a provincial government, a city and a local police force unable, or unwilling, to defend and to protect one residential neighbourhood in this entire country today. They either can’t or they won’t,” McKenney said.

The city of Ottawa confirmed Thursday it had requested aid from the Royal Canadian Mounted police and Canada’s public safety minister confirmed resources from the federal police force would be sent to the nation’s capital. With the protests attracting significant attention and funding from the US, police say they are working with the FBI and US Department of Homeland Security to investigate online threats originating south of the border.