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Ottawa pleads to absent Trudeau for reinforcements to end convoy’s occupation

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OTTAWA, Ontario — Ottawa authorities pleaded for police reinforcements Monday to further loosen the trucker convoy protest’s grip on the heart of Canada’s capital city as the siege stretched into its 11th day.

“There is a level of sustainability, financial capability, determined commitment,” Ottawa Police Chief Peter Sloly told reporters about the demonstrators and the 500 trucks paralyzing the core of the G-7 capital. “We’re going to need a lot more to really get on top of this situation.”

Mayor Jim Watson sent letters Monday to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Ontario Premier Doug Ford asking for 1,800 police officers to help “quell the insurrection that the Ottawa Police Service is not able to contain.” On Sunday, Watson said the “situation is completely out of control” and declared a state of emergency.

The requests came amid questions about whether the city of Ottawa has been left to deal with the situation on its own.

Trudeau, who tested positive for Covid about a week ago, faced more criticism Monday for spending yet another day out of the public eye as the big rigs of the “Freedom Convoy” occupied the streets around Parliament Hill.

Trudeau has said he won’t be intimidated by a “fringe minority.” But he hasn’t made public comments since Thursday about a campaign that’s raking in lots of cash from U.S. donors, has beenapplauded by former President Donald Trump and drawn comparisons to Jan. 6.

The truckers’ campaign has garnered global headlines and appears to be spawning copycat protests, thrusting Canada into the unlikely position of a vanguard in the global anti-vax movement.

“When will the prime minister stop hiding, show up for Canadians, show some leadership and fix the mess that he has created?” Conservative interim leader Candice Bergen asked during Monday’s question period, which Trudeau did not attend. Bergen accused Trudeau of dividing Canadians by overtly politicizing vaccines and the pandemic.

The demonstrations have also attracted more menacing elements, including the display of racist symbols and calls by organizers for a coup.

“This is a group of people that are trying to overthrow the government — they’ve made that really clear — and they’re being funded by many people from the States,” New Democrat Leader Jagmeet Singh told reporters Monday. “Foreign money should not be going towards supporting a group that’s trying to replace elected officials. … These are some serious things and the prime minister hasn’t really shown that leadership.”

The convoy began as a movement for Canadians opposed to vaccine mandates imposed on truckers who cross the border from the U.S. But it quickly expanded into an well-organized, heavily funded crusade against Covid-19 restrictions in general, and Trudeau himself.

Locals have been subjected to constant blasts of truck horns, frequent night-time fireworks and harassment. Businesses have been forced to close their doors and residents have complained of public drinking, defecation and urination.

Authorities have even fenced off the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier after individuals were filmed dancing on top of it.

Dominic LeBlanc, Trudeau’s intergovernmental affairs minister, defended the prime minister Monday, saying he’s been “actively engaged every day” in briefings and in updates from senior national security and intelligence officials.

Asked whether Canadians needed to hear from Trudeau, Crown–Indigenous Relations Minister Marc Miller told a reporter that, “right now we’re going to let law enforcement do its job.”

Federal support has been sent to Ottawa. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police, for example, has dispatched 275 officers to backstop the local force. The Ontario government has also provided policing help.

But the Trudeau government is under pressure to explain why more hasn’t been done.

Bill Blair, the emergency preparedness minister, urged the city’s police force Monday to get control of the situation.

“Let me be clear, it is not the role of any government to direct law enforcement operations,” said Blair, who stressed the federal government has helped and will continue to offer support. “It is the responsibility of the police of jurisdiction, and in this case, the Ottawa police service to maintain public order and to uphold the rule of law.”

Sloly said Monday that law enforcement is starting to make a dent in the convoy, thanks in large part to reinforcements sent by the federal and provincial police forces. But he stressed there’s much more to be done.

Police, who were not enforcing bylaws at the outset due to a shortage of resources, have started cracking down on the protesters.

Over the weekend, Sloly said police issued more than 500 tickets and arrested and charged seven people and seized 1,000 liters of fuel and propane. He said they also cleared protesters out of an occupied park and removed an oil tanker as well as saunas and hot tubs that had been brought in by demonstrators.

It was only possible because of the support of other police forces, he said.

“We are stretched to the limit,” said Sloly, who has been criticized for the police department’s slow response to the convoy. “We cannot do it alone.”

Residents in the downtown area received some good news later Monday. A judge granted an interim injunction that aims to temporarily quiet the incessant truck horns that have consumed the downtown area and terrorized residents. The ruling is part of a proposed class-action lawsuit against the convoy.

Police have also being trying to cut off another lifeline for the convoy: cash.

Convoy organizers raised more than C$10 million on GoFundMe before the platform stopped the fundraiser Friday, noting that the protests had violated its terms of service: “the previously peaceful demonstration has become an occupation, with police reports of violence and other unlawful activity.”

But the movement has found other sources of money.

GiveSendGo, another platform, said the Freedom Convoy quickly become its largest campaign ever after raising more than C$5.7 million in less than 24 hours.

The Christian crowd-funding site said in a statement that convoy organizers have made assurances the money will be used to provide humanitarian aid and legal support “for the peaceful truckers and their families as they stand for freedom.”

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