Protests over vaccination mandates cripple Canada’s capital, says Ottawa mayor


OTTAWA, Feb 6 (Reuters) – Protesters camping in Canada’s capital outnumber police and are in control, the city’s mayor said on Sunday, as a protest against vaccination mandates entered its 10th day and the government has said it will not back down. the problem.

The “Freedom Convoy” began as a movement against a Canadian requirement for vaccines for cross-border truckers, but turned into a rallying point against public health measures and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government.

“The convoy may not agree, but they are not above the law and there should be a peaceful resolution to this issue as soon as possible,” said Canada’s Public Safety Minister, Marco Mendicino, on CBC Television.

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“We put the issue of vaccines and vaccine mandates on the ballot … in the (2021) election and we are simply delivering on the promise we made with the support of the vast majority of Canadians.”

Protesters have paralyzed downtown Ottawa for the past nine days, with some participants waving Confederate or Nazi flags and some saying they want to dissolve the Government of Canada.

Amid incessant horns and occasional fireworks, a fancy supply chain – including portable saunas, a community kitchen and bouncy castles for children – has backed protesters to the fury of locals who blame police for their inaction.

“The situation at this point is completely out of control because the people protesting are in control,” Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson told a local radio station. “They have a lot more people than we have police.”

Ottawa police moved some protesters and erected new barricades on Sunday, saying they are “collecting financial, digital, vehicle registration data…and other evidence that will be used in criminal prosecutions.”

Trudeau, who is self-isolating after testing positive for COVID-19 last week, has ruled out using the military to break up the protest. For security reasons, Trudeau and his family moved out of their downtown home last weekend and its location has not been disclosed.

The prime minister said the convoy represented a “small marginal minority” and the government would not be intimidated. About 90% of cross-border truck drivers in Canada and almost 79% of the population have received two vaccines against COVID-19.

Convoy organizers said they would refrain from using their horns for four hours on Sunday “as a sign of goodwill”.

“Out of respect for the day of the Lord, for the members of our army who have sacrificed and continue to sacrifice so much for our freedom, for the men and women in blue who do such a superb job protecting us… members of our convoy will refrain from ringing their horns,” the group said in a statement.

Police said they had charged four people with hate crimes and were investigating threats against public figures in conjunction with the US Federal Bureau of Investigation.

The well-organized blockade relied in part on funding from sympathizers in the United States, police said. GoFundMe took down the Freedom Convoy’s donation platform, angering some U.S. Republican lawmakers who pledged to investigate the website’s decision.

Former US President Donald Trump and Tesla (TSLA.O) CEO Elon Musk have praised the truckers.

A senior Liberal government official said the ease with which the convoy cordoned off the area around parliament and the apparent helplessness of the police was a “national humiliation”.

Senior opposition Tories who have encouraged the protests, including taking selfies with some truckers, did not respond to requests for comment. Last week, the party ditched its leader in part for not initially backing the blockade with enough enthusiasm.

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Additional reporting by Blair Gable; Written by Amran Abocar; Editing by Lisa Shumaker

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