The Ottawa Police Service says its officers were overwhelmed by the aggressive behavior of protesters opposing COVID-19 public health measures Friday night.
In a press release issued on Saturday morning, the force said it deployed all of its available officers on Friday evening and is awaiting reinforcements in order to implement a plan to end the occupation of the convoy.
By 10:30 a.m., Ottawa Bylaws and Police had issued more than 2,600 tickets related to the two-week protest, and police had made 26 arrests, including two for public intoxication. The force declined to provide an overall breakdown of arrests by charge.
As the convoy protest stretches into its third weekend in the nation’s capital, a concert stage and hot tub were spotted Friday night and Saturday among the hundreds of trucks in downtown Ottawa blocking the streets and honking in defiance of a court order.
A group of protesters dismantled a metal fence around the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier outside the National War Memorial on Saturday afternoon. The barrier was put up by authorities two weekends ago after reports of protesters parking, dancing and relieving themselves on or near the memorial.
The city is expecting another wave of protesters this weekend, and Ottawa Police Chief Peter Sloly said his officers are tired but will do whatever they can to use the new enforcement powers available to them.
“We will apply [the law] as our resources permit,” he said on Friday. “The more resources we can get, the more we can do.”
Sloly’s comments come as Premier Doug Ford declared a state of emergency in Ontario on Friday, following the City of Ottawa.
Ford said the emergency orders would make it “clear” that it is illegal to block critical infrastructure, including highways, airports and bridges. Failure to comply could result in hefty fines and possibly jail time.
The City of Ottawa also sought an injunction that the city attorney said would “supplement” the provincial ordinances.
The request comes after a judge on Monday granted an Ottawa resident an injunction against the constant noise of trucks and horns. It came at the same time the City of Windsor and auto groups successfully received an injunction order to end the blockade of the Ambassador Bridge, a key international trade connection that connects the city to Detroit.
Despite the injunction, some honking and cheering resumed on Friday evening. Protesters also built a professional stage with an LED backdrop at the Wellington Street intersection, facing Parliament Hill. Two large party tents are set up on the street outside the House of Commons West Block, and elsewhere on Wellington at least two protesters bathed in a hot tub while others stood around open garbage fires.
Attorney Paul Champ, who filed a class action proposal seeking the injunction, said in a tweet Saturday morning that the overnight horn represents “flagrant disregard” for the court order.
As protests erupt elsewhere in the province, Sloly said getting police resources to Ottawa involves coordination that takes time as other police forces also request reinforcements.
He said he expects a similar number of protesters in Ottawa compared to last weekend.
More protests, counter-protests expected
Protesters are also expected to converge on Kingston, Ont., on Saturday, with police warning residents of a “slow roll” through downtown and a protest at City Hall.
The truck convoy is expected to disrupt traffic between 1:30 p.m. and 3 p.m. ET, Kingston police said. Kingston Transit also advises passengers of possible delays.
“We recognize that individuals have the right to protest peacefully,” Police Chief Antje McNeely said in a statement.
“Kingston Police’s priority will be to minimize the impact on motorists in order to ensure public safety, with the aim of restoring a regular flow of traffic in the safest way possible.”
Numerous farm tractors and motor vehicles also fell at the Canadian port of entry in Cornwall, Ont., the Cornwall Police Service said.
The service said it had been in contact with protest organizers and would charge protesters caught committing crimes or acts of violence.
A group called Community Solidarity Ottawa has scheduled a counter-protest to take place at the Share the Flame monument in Lansdowne Park on Saturday at 1 p.m. frontline workers and residents affected by the ongoing occupation.
A second counter-protest, led by a group called Citizens of Ottawa, also met at Lansdowne on Saturday. The two groups marched from Lansdowne, along Bank Street and through the Glebe.