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Ottawa Press Conference On Trucker’s Convey, Law Enforcement Wants Them To Move On

In a virtual news conference, officials from the City of Ottawa and the Ottawa Police Service (OPS) answer questions from journalists regarding the ongoing truck demonstration in the city. The downtown core in the nation’s capital has been gridlocked since the protest against COVID-19 vaccine mandates began on January 28 on Parliament Hill and discussed a number of topics from crime reports, investigations, snow removal and other updates.

“The people of Ottawa know the Truckers are not going to just move on,” one reporter said, trying to blame the United States for allegedly funding the convoy.

The topic of placing barriers to prevent more Truckers come into the area was discussed by the local goverment.

The head of the Ottawa police said “all options are on the table” when it comes to ending an ongoing — and potentially resurging — anti-vaccine mandate protest that some local councillors are now calling an “occupation” of the capital city.

Chief Peter Sloly warned there “may not be a policing solution” to the demonstration.

The police chief said he knows people in Ottawa want to see more enforcement from police officers as protesters continue to cause gridlock in the downtown core near Parliament Hill and put a significant burden on residents and business, many of which have had to shut their doors.

Sloly said the end of the protest could come about through negotiations with the leaders of the convoys of trucks that arrived in Ottawa last Friday, or it could come through police enforcement.

“All such options come with significant risks,” Sloly said Wednesday at a public briefing for city councillors.

Police estimate the protest involved 8,000 to 15,000 people on Saturday, but has since dwindled to several hundred.

“What remains is a highly determined and highly volatile group of unlawful individuals,” acting deputy Chief Trish Ferguson said Wednesday.

More people are expected to arrive in Ottawa over the weekend, with the local hotel association saying they had people rebooking rooms for the weekend. Police intelligence hasn’t revealed how many will descend on Parliament Hill again.

As of Wednesday people from all over wanted to join the movement:

The longer the demonstration goes on, the greater the risk to public safety, Sloly said.

Coun. Diane Deans, chair of the police services board, said she expects police will step up enforcement of city bylaws as officers are redeployed from the parliamentary precinct to protect communities from protesters.

“The message I’ve been getting loud and clear from the public is they sense this sort of lawlessness that has been allowed to happen,” Deans said in an interview.

“We need to restore law and order in these communities and these people need to be subject to our laws and bylaws while they’re in our city.”

Ottawa police have charged three men after investigations related to the protest, and Sloly says he expects more charges to be laid in the days ahead.

Police said Wednesday they charged a 48-year-old man from Quebec with uttering threats and counselling to commit an indictable offence. The charges relate to threats and comments made on social media while in Ottawa, said police, who did not name him.

Andre Lacasse, 37, was charged on Sunday with carrying a weapon to a public meeting, while Matthew Dorken, 29, was charged Tuesday with mischief under $5,000.
“We want to be very clear, both for the current demonstrations and any planned demonstrations: Illegal activity will not be tolerated,” police said in a release, promising consequences for people who break laws or bylaws.

Ottawa residents frustrated with the incessant blare of truck horns, traffic gridlock and harassment by some protesters are questioning how police have handled the demonstration.

Police said there were 25 active investigations as of Wednesday afternoon related to the demonstration, and some progress on the investigation into the weekend desecration of the National War Memorial near Parliament Hill.

Police and city officials have stressed the need to avoid inflaming the situation in a way that could prompt serious violence.

Police are negotiating with leaders of several factions in the convoy, but don’t have any line of communication with some parties involved, Deans said.

Coun. Catherine McKenney, who represents downtown, said the federal government should send in the RCMP to help get a handle on the days-long demonstration.

“The residents of downtown have been abandoned during a national crisis and occupation of our city,” McKenney said. “People are terrified and there is no presence of the police.”

Police have requested RCMP intelligence offers to assist with negotiations and other elements of the situation, Deans said.

Ottawa resident Jeremy Owen said he decided to start an online petition after feeling powerless as convoy demonstrators took to the streets, vandalized the Terry Fox statue and ceaselessly blared vehicle horns.

The petition on has received over 10,000 signatures since it was created Tuesday.

The petition’s goal is for police to say they will “handle it and it’s all gonna go away,” Owen said.

Deans also called on Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to get in touch with GoFundMe and demand that protesters be barred from millions of dollars raised by organizers of the protest. GoFundMe has confirmed $1 million has been released to organizers so far.

“They’re funding these mercenaries and that funding stream needs to get cut off,” Deans said.

Breaking news Wednesday afternoon was that Go Fund Me did seize the account for review:

Canada Unity, a group backing the demonstration, emerged during the 2019 pro-pipeline convoy to Ottawa but morphed into a protest against COVID-19 restrictions after the pandemic began.

In a statement today, one of the Ottawa convoy leaders said responsibility for the city’s current hardships rests on politicians who “prefer to vilify and call us names” instead of engaging with them.

“The fastest way to get us out of the nation’s capital, is to call your elected representatives and end all (COVID-19) mandates,” wrote Chris Barber, described in the news release as a senior convoy leader.

Barber said the protesters’ interactions with police have been “mostly positive,” especially with front-line officers.

Police estimate they have already spent more than $3 million to manage the protest and respond to emergencies. In comparison, the Canada 150 celebrations on Parliament Hill in 2017 cost Ottawa police about $1.44 million.

The city has begun delivering essentials to people downtown who are afraid or unable to leave their homes, Watson said.

Watson said he has spoken with federal and provincial officials about getting financial relief for businesses that have been unable to open during the ongoing demonstrations.

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