One day after the police chief in Canada’s capital said his city was under “siege” by thousands of truckers and other protesters angry over government policies, the mayor on Sunday declared a state of emergency and called for outside help.
“We’re in the midst of a serious emergency, the most serous emergency our city has ever faced,” the mayor of Ottawa, Jim Watson, said a television interview after declaring the emergency. “And we need to get moving much more quickly and much more proactively to bring order back to the streets.”
“Someone is going to get killed or seriously injured because of the irresponsible behavior of some of these people,” the mayor warned.
Across Canada this weekend, thousands of protesters took to the streets for the second week in a row, snarling traffic, disrupting business and residential neighborhoods. The truckers, whose cross-country convoy sparked the protest, paralyzed downtown Ottawa and the area around Parliament, parking their vehicles in intersections and across busy thoroughfares.
The protests, initially set off by vaccines mandates for truckers for crossing the border from the United States, have since drawn thousands of other protesters from Canada’s political right unhappy over a mixed bag of issues.
The atmosphere of the demonstrations this weekend was boisterous and by and large peaceful, even festive.
But in Ottawa, the Canadian capital, the authorities said they were overwhelmed. On Sunday, the mayor said the city was left with little choice.
“Declaring a state of emergency reflects the serious danger and threat to the safety and security of residents posed by the ongoing demonstrations,” Mr. Watson said in a statement.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who is isolating after testing positive for Covid-19 last week, has ruled out using the military to disband the protest. Mr. Trudeau and his family left their downtown home last weekend and his location has not been disclosed.
The authorities planned to try to choke off the truckers’ supply of diesel oil to prevent them from constantly idling their engines and fouling the air.
“It’s an absolute disgrace when they’re bringing in bouncy castles and hot tubs and saunas,” Mr. Watson said in the TV interview. “Complete insensitivity to the people who are living through this terrible situation in the residential neighborhoods.”
One city councilor, Catherine McKenney, said last week that she was being deluged with complaints.
“I’m receiving hundreds — and I’m not exaggerating — hundreds of emails telling me: ‘I went out to get groceries, I got yelled at, I got harassed. I got followed down the street, I’m so afraid that I can’t go out,’” she said.
In Ottawa, the authorities warned that the noisy and disruptive protests posed a real threat.
“This is a siege — it is something that is different in our democracy than I’ve ever experienced in my life,” said Peter Sloly, chief of the Ottawa Police said on Saturday. “We do not have sufficient resources to adequately and effectively address this situation” while tending to routine policing, he said.
Emmett Lindner contributed reporting.