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Canada: Ottawa declares state of emergency over COVID-19 protests

People hold signs and wave flags on Wellington Street in front of Parliament Hill at a protest against COVID-19 restrictions that has gridlocked downtown Ottawa, Feb. 5, 2022.
People hold signs and wave flags on Wellington Street in front of Parliament Hill at a protest against COVID-19 restrictions that has gridlocked downtown Ottawa, Feb. 5, 2022. Copyright Justin Tang /The Canadian Press via AP
Copyright Justin Tang /The Canadian Press via AP
By AP with Euronews
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Thousands of protesters against vaccine mandates and other restrictions have descended on Canada's capital in what the police chief has likened to a 'siege'.

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The mayor of Canada's capital declared a state of emergency Sunday as protesters opposed to COVID-19 restrictions continued to paralyze Ottawa's downtown.

Thousands of protesters descended in Ottawa again on the weekend, joining a hundred who remained since last weekend.

Residents of Ottawa are furious at the nonstop blaring of horns, traffic disruption and harassment and fear no end is in sight after the police chief called it a “siege” that he could not manage.

Many Canadians have been outraged over the crude behavior of the demonstrators. Some protesters set fireworks off on the grounds of the National War Memorial late Friday. A number have carried signs and flags with swastikas last weekend and compared vaccine mandates to fascism.

Protesters have said they won’t leave until all mandates and COVID-19 restrictions are gone. They are also calling for the removal of Trudeau’s government, though it is responsible for few of the measures in Canada, most of which were put in place by provincial governments.

Ottawa's Mayor Jim Watson said the declaration highlights the need for support from other jurisdictions and levels of government.

It gives the city some additional powers around procurement and how it delivers services, which could help purchase equipment required by frontline workers and first responders.

Complaints of US 'interference'

The “freedom truck convoy” has attracted support from many U.S. Republicans including former President Donald Trump. He has called Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau a “far left lunatic” who has "destroyed Canada with insane Covid mandates.”

Meanwhile, a former U.S. ambassador to Canada said groups in the U.S. must stop interfering in the domestic affairs of America's neighbour.

“Canada US relations used to be mainly about solving technical issues. Today Canada is unfortunately experiencing radical US politicians involving themselves in Canadian domestic issues. Trump and his followers are a threat not just to the US but to all democracies," Bruce Heyman, a former U.S. ambassador under President Barack Obama, tweeted.

Heyman said “under no circumstances should any group in the USA fund disruptive activities in Canada. Period. Full stop.”

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxon tweeted: “Patriotic Texans donated to Canadian truckers' worthy cause." and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz said on Fox News “government doesn’t have the right to force you to comply to their arbitrary mandates.”

“For some senior American politicians, patriotism means renting a mob to put a G-7 capital under siege,” tweeted Gerald Butts, a former senior adviser to Trudeau.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford has called it an occupation.

After crowdfunding site GoFundMe said it would refund or redirect to charities the vast majority of the millions raised by demonstrators protesting in the Canadian capital, prominent U.S. Republicans including Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis complained.

But GoFundMe had already changed its mind and said it would be issuing refunds to all. The site said it cut off funding for the organizers because it had determined the effort violated the site’s terms of service due to unlawful activity.

In Canada's largest city, Toronto, police controlled and later ended a much smaller protest by setting up road blocks and preventing any trucks or cars from getting near the provincial legislature. Police also moved in to clear a key intersection in the city.

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