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Police arson unit probing alleged attempt to start fire in Ottawa apartment building, says mayor

Click to play video: 'Police investigate alleged attempt by two men to start apartment fire' Police investigate alleged attempt by two men to start apartment fire
WATCH: Ottawa's police arson unit is investigating whether someone who might be linked to the convoy protest, tried to start a fire inside the lobby of an apartment building. As Ross Lord reports, the incident is amplifying fears among residents who already feel under siege. – Feb 7, 2022

Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson says the city’s police arson unit is investigating after “disturbing” reports of unidentified individuals attempting to start a fire in the lobby of a residential apartment located near the site of ongoing trucker convoy demonstration.

“Thankfully, no one was hurt, but this story could’ve ended very, very differently,” said Watson at a meeting of city councillors on Monday, calling the incident an act of “obvious criminal intent.”

“The lives of innocent people are at risk, right now, right here,” Watson continued.

“Show human decency and leave our community now that you’ve made your point.”

Read more: What options do police have amid ‘illegal,’ ‘unlawful’ conduct?

Click to play video: 'Security cameras show two men attempting to set Ottawa apartment building on fire' Security cameras show two men attempting to set Ottawa apartment building on fire
Security cameras show two men attempting to set Ottawa apartment building on fire – Feb 7, 2022

Police have not yet said who they believe is responsible for the alleged attempted arson but are urging members of the public to help identify two individuals who are described as “persons of interest.”

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Footage shared by a resident of the downtown Ottawa residential apartment building shows two men entering the lobby on Sunday, taping the front doors shut, and attempting to set fire to the building using firestarters.

Matias Muñoz lives in the building and spoke to Global News, describing the incident as “scary” and adding he was told by other residents that it happened after residents of the building argued with protesters a short while before about setting off fireworks on the nearby street.

He was staying at a friend’s house on the weekend when building management shared the video footage with residents, he said.

“There was a lot of anger and it (was) building for a whole week,” he said.

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“We don’t have a sense of security right now. Everybody’s terrified. Everybody’s worried about violence. Everybody’s worried about being assaulted,” Muñoz added.

“This is a perfect example of the situation that can arise when this kind of lawlessness happens. So it’s a terrifying experience.”

Click to play video: 'Ottawa declares at state of emergency as trucker protest enters second week' Ottawa declares at state of emergency as trucker protest enters second week
Ottawa declares at state of emergency as trucker protest enters second week – Feb 7, 2022

Ottawa police have been under intense criticism over their response to the demonstration, which is stretching into a second week with no sign of an end-date.

Convoy organizers have said they want an end to all COVID-19 public health measures — most of which are under provincial, rather than federal jurisdiction — along with the dissolution of Trudeau government.

Many participants have maintained the convoy has been peaceful.

As of Sunday night, however, Ottawa police said there are more than 60 criminal investigations underway into alleged conduct associated with the convoy including “mischief, thefts, hate crimes and property damage.”

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Police have issued 100 tickets for offences including “excessive honking, driving the wrong way, defective muffler, no seat belt, alcohol readily available and having the improper class of driving licence.”

Muñoz said he understands people are frustrated with the continued pandemic, noting he had to shut down his own business operating a local music venue.

“But we’re all suffering,” he said.

Read more: Ottawa police going ‘on the offensive’ to end trucker protest

Ottawa police Chief Peter Sloly said on Monday that the force is going “on the offensive” to try to end the trucker convoy demonstration. He also said that police are “aggressively” going after the convoy’s funding to try to cut off the supplies and resources fuelling what local councillors have described as an ongoing “occupation” and “siege” of the city.

“We will be relentless in pursuing the funding that has enabled this demonstration to continue to this point,” said Sloly.

Click to play video: 'Trucker protests: Police say they’re going after the “funding” and the “fuel” behind the demonstrations' Trucker protests: Police say they’re going after the “funding” and the “fuel” behind the demonstrations
Trucker protests: Police say they’re going after the “funding” and the “fuel” behind the demonstrations – Feb 7, 2022

Federal officials reiterated in a press conference on Monday that the responsibility for ending the demonstration lies with local police, and that it is not the government’s job to direct their operations.

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Liberal MP Yasir Naqvi, who represents one of the central areas of the city hardest hit by the convoy disruptions, called the experiences of the past 11 days “agony” for residents.

He described the constant honking of trucks as “torturous,” while  Mona Fortier, who represents the nearby riding of Ottawa-Vanier, said the conduct demonstrated by the convoy to date is worrying.

“This is the furthest thing from peaceful protest,” she said.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has not commented since late last week on the convoy. But NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh is pushing for an emergency debate on the matter in the House of Commons on Monday.

The city declared a state of emergency on Sunday.

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