Ottawa police have made a third arrest in connection with the ongoing trucker protest, which some city councillors are now saying has reached a “boiling point” that could require intervention from the federal government and RCMP.
Police said Wednesday morning they’ve arrested a 48-year-old man from Quebec charged with uttering threats and counselling to commit an indictable offence not committed.
The suspect, whose name was not given, is accused of making the threats over social media while in Ottawa, according to a release.
Two Ottawa men taking part in the protest were also arrested Tuesday evening. One was charged with mischief and the other was charged with carrying a weapon to a public meeting on Sunday.
In announcing the first two arrests of the demonstration, Ottawa police claimed that the overall numbers of the protest had dwindled to roughly 250, with only 50 protesters currently at Parliament Hill.
Organizers of the truck convoy, meanwhile, released a statement Wednesday morning claiming their numbers are in the tens of thousands and vowing not to leave until policymakers meet their demands to end public health mandates tied to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Ottawa Coun. Tim Tierney, chair for the city’s transportation committee, said Wednesday morning that the situation has reached a “boiling point.”
“When this protest started, it was a protest. And I think it’s pretty clear this is now an occupancy,” he said as the demonstration stretched into its sixth day.
The protest has been marked by gridlock in the downtown core and regular truck horns filling the air, audible throughout much of the area at all hours of the day. Numerous downtown businesses are shuttered including the Rideau Centre mall, which announced Tuesday night it will be closed until the end of the week.
Residents are also reporting upticks in harassment on the streets.
Ottawa police said Tuesday there are 13 active investigations related to the protests, three of which are under the jurisdiction of the hate crime unit. OPS has received eight calls so far to a newly established tip line to report hateful incidents.
Ahead of a planned 2 p.m. ET police briefing for city councillors on the ongoing protests, Tierney said Wednesday that he’s hoping to hear about plans to deal with aggressors in the crowd as noise bylaw and traffic enforcement has been absent from the police response.
“The citizens have to see a little bit more action, visible (action),” he said.
He echoed calls earlier in the week from Somerset Coun. Catherine McKenney, whose ward covers most of the protest area, for federal intervention to manage the situation.
“Will we be looking at other levels of forces coming in to deal with the situation,” he said.
“If that requires seeing the federal government get more involved with the RCMP, I am certainly in favour of that.”
Tierney went on to note the situation is “fluid and delicate” and reaffirmed his faith in Chief Peter Sloly. He also floated the possibility of getting a court injunction to force the protesters to move.
McKenney has said previously that they feel Centretown has been “abandoned” amid incidents of harassment and non-stop noise.
“It is time for the federal government to step in and to provide the resources through the RCMP and their own security agencies … and allow our resources to be diverted back to our residential neighborhoods,” McKenney told Global News on Monday.
How is the federal government responding?
Members of the federal Liberal government have offered comments in support of Ottawa residents and have urged the truckers to leave the capital city’s downtown, but have not committed to providing additional resources.
Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino said Monday on his way out of the Liberal caucus meeting that the RCMP and Parliamentary Precinct Security had provided officers and resources to manage the crowds during their peak over the past weekend, adding that there are “good lines of communication” between the city and the feds.
He also stressed that policing decisions are made “independently” of government.
“Governments do not make those calls. But we will be there to respond however it’s needed,” Mendicino said.
Transport Minister Omar Alghabra said Monday that he also has “full confidence” in law enforcement agencies in the nation’s capital, but urged the truckers and others protesting vaccination mandates to leave.
“They made their point…. The entire country heard their point of view, and I think they should go home and let Ottawa, the residents of Ottawa, Ottawa businesses get back to their jobs.”
Innovation and Science Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne reiterated calls for protesters to head home and pushed for calm and unity as Canada eyes the “light at the end of the tunnel” in the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I think it’s a time in our nation now to just try to bring people together, and that’s certainly what we’re going to be doing,” he said heading into caucus Wednesday.
— with files from Global News’s Amanda Connolly
More to come.