Ottawa Police Chief Peter Sloly says he needs 1,800 more personnel from provincial and federal sources to sustain a push started over the weekend to rout the so-called “freedom convoy” from the city as the demonstration stretches into its 11th day.
He said Monday that, thanks to an influx of OPP and RCMP resources received over the weekend, officers can now go “on the offensive” to put an end to the trucker protest.
“We needed more resources to deal with an occupation than with a demonstration. I have worked continuously, 18-hour days, to get those resources. Our partners have started to bring those resources to bear,” Sloly said.
“Now we can go on the offensive. That’s what we’ve been doing, to great effect.”
Kim Ayotte, the head of Ottawa’s emergency services department, said Monday that bylaw officers in the city have issued more than 1,000 tickets to protesters since the demonstration began, with 780 of those handed out this past weekend.
Some 29 vehicles have been towed to date, he said.
There were also a handful of arrests made, charges laid, and more than 60 criminal investigations underway in connection with the protest, according to police.
Ottawa police announced over the weekend that they would begin cracking down on numerous offences, including threatening to arrest anyone bringing “material supports” — including gasoline refills — to the trucker convoy.
Police said “multiple vehicles and fuel have been seized” on Sunday.
Sloly said a convoy encampment set up in a parking lot on Coventry Road was “dismantled” and “thousands of litres of propane and gasoline” were seized in the past 24 hours.
But demonstrators have since made attempts to “reclaim” the site, and police are still attempting to fence it off and prevent any further use by the convoy.
Some protesters have also pushed back by filling canisters with water and walking them into the “red zone” alongside cans filled with diesel.
OPS Deputy Chief Steve Bell told Ottawa city council Monday that the strategy is an attempt to “frustrate” police containment measures.
Bell said part of the reason the city needs more resources is to more effectively “stem the flow of gasoline supplies.”
Sloly said Monday the biggest development has been the GoFundMe’s shutdown, which he, alongside the city, took credit for bringing offline.
“We went after the funding. Our efforts, combined with the city’s efforts, eliminated the GoFundMe. $10 million (is) no longer accessible to the demonstrators,” he said.
The police will “aggressively” pursue any “other funding avenues” for the demonstration he said.
“We will be relentless in pursuing the funding that has enabled this demonstration to continue to this point,” he said.
What began as a protest against Ottawa’s vaccine mandate for truckers at the Canada-U.S. border has morphed into opposition to all public health measures including mask-wearing and vaccination, and now calls for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to resign.
There have since been numerous reports shared online by residents since the protest started detailing instances where they say people associated with the convoy tried to break into their homes, attacked them on the streets, and threatened them with rape or death for wearing masks.
Ottawa Police Services declined to provide any information when asked how many alleged death threats, rape threats or assaults by convoy members they have received.
How does this protest end?
Meanwhile, the city declared a state of emergency on Sunday, which Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson said “reflects the serious danger and threat to the safety and security of residents posed by the ongoing demonstrations.”
Sloly also called for increased support from other levels of government in order to put an end to the demonstration.
“We are making significant progress,” Sloly said, but “we need more resources to drive those successes even further.”
“We need more resources, more help. With what we’ve got, we’ve made significant impact, but we’re going to need a lot more to really get on top of this situation.”
Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson sent letters to Trudeau and Ontario Premier Doug Ford Monday on Sloly’s behalf requesting 1,800 more police and civilian personnel from other jurisdictions in order to put an end to the protest.
“We must do everything in our power to take back the streets of Ottawa, and our parliamentary precinct, from the criminal activity and hooliganism that has occurred over the past nine days,” Watson wrote.
We need your help to end this siege in the heart of our nation’s capital and in our residential neighbourhoods, and to regain control of our city.”
Sloly acknowledged Monday that the 1,800 extra staff was a “significant ask,” but said his officers are strained after more than a week of long shifts managing the protest.
For context, the OPS usually has roughly 2,100 staff, 1,200 of whom are sworn officers.
The staff request breaks down to 1,000 regular officers, 600 public order officers, 100 investigative officers and 100 civilian staff.
The Ontario Provincial Police have already loaned the OPS 100 officers per day, while 257 RCMP officers were sworn in under the OPS banner over the weekend.
Blair Dunker, the OPS chief administrative officer, said Monday that if the police’s request fo extra staff is granted, the daily policing cost for the protest would rise to roughly $2.5 million from the original $800,000 estimates.
The city itself expects its bill for the ongoing protest is around $1 million a day, according to Ottawa’s chief financial officer Wendy Stephanson.
Bill Blair, the federal government’s minister of emergency preparedness, said in a press conference Monday that there are “well established” procedures for Ottawa police to seek additional resources.
“They must have the appropriate resources and they do have the appropriate tools and resources to keep their community safe,” he said.
Speaking to city council, Sloly rephrased a comment he made last week, when he said the protest might not have a “policing solution.”
“Although policing is part of the solution, it is not the only part,” he said Monday.
He called on the city to engage with insurance companies, financial institutions and any other organization that could “restrict the material and financial support” going to the demonstrators.
Liberal MPs slammed the protesters’ recent actions during Monday’s press conference.
“From what we are witnessing on the ground and hearing from residents, this is the furthest thing from a peaceful protest,” said Ottawa-area Liberal MP Mona Fortier.
“We call on the protesters to stop and respect the communities we represent.”
Fortier wasn’t alone in her condemnation. Ottawa Centre MP Yasir Naqvi said there are “no words” to accurately describe “the agony” of what his community has gone through.
“For residents of downtown Ottawa, this continues to be a horrific experience,” he said.
— with files from Amanda Connolly, Global News