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Protest against vaccine mandates paralyzing Canada capital, mayor says

Protest against vaccine mandates paralyzing Canada capital, mayor says
Protest against vaccine mandates paralyzing Canada capital, mayor says Copyright Thomson Reuters 2022
Copyright Thomson Reuters 2022
By Reuters
Published on Updated
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By Lars Hagberg

OTTAWA - Protesters camped out in the Canadian capital outnumber the police and control the situation, the city's mayor said on Sunday, as a demonstration against vaccine mandates clogged parts of the city for a 10th day.

The "Freedom Convoy" began as a movement against a Canadian vaccine requirement for cross-border truckers but has turned into a rallying point against public health measures and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's government.

Protesters have paralyzed downtown Ottawa for the past nine days, with some participants waving Confederate or Nazi flags and some saying they wanted to dissolve Canada's government.

"The situation at this point is completely out of control because the individuals with the protest are calling the shots," Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson said on a local radio station. "They have far more people than we have police officers."

Amid incessant horn blaring and occasional fireworks, a polished supply chain -- including portable saunas, a community kitchen and bouncy castles for children -- has sustained the protesters to the fury of residents who blame police for inaction.

Convoy organizers said they would refrain from using their horns on Sunday morning for four hours "as a gesture of goodwill".

"Out of respect for the Lord's Day, for members of our military who have sacrificed and who continue to sacrifice so much for our freedom, for the men and women in blue who are doing such a superb job protecting us ... members of our convoy will desist from the blowing of horns," the group said in a statement.

Police said they had charged four people with hate crimes and were investigating threats against public figures jointly with the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation.

The well-organized blockade has relied partly 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 move.

A senior member of the Liberal government said the ease with which the convoy shut down the area around the parliament and the seeming impotence of police was a "national humiliation".

Senior conservatives who encouraged the protests, including taking selfies with some truckers, did not reply to requests for comment. Last week, the party ditched its leader in part for not initially backing the blockade enthusiastically enough.

On Saturday, thousands of people demonstrated in Canadian cities, including the financial hub Toronto, as the protests against vaccine mandates spread from Ottawa.

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