Ottawa police said Thursday that a significant amount of calls that “almost jammed” the city’s 911 phone system on Wednesday evening came from U.S. addresses.
“They were coming in from the United States,” Ottawa police chief Peter Sloly said in a news conference Thursday.
“Not exclusively, but significantly from United States addresses.”
Police reported earlier Thursday that there was a “concerted effort to flood” 911 lines.
“This endangers lives and is completely unacceptable,” the police service said.
“It is a crime to unnecessarily call 911 or our non-emergency number (613-236-1222). We track calls and will charge anyone deliberately interfering with emergencies.”
Sloly said that the 14-day-long protest in Ottawa that he called an “unlawful occupation” has been an “unprecedented demonstration” from protesters that have command centres across Canada and “beyond this country.”
He made a call for further resources from the provincial and federal governments, saying that the more resources there are, the quicker the demonstration will come to an end.
“More resources, more reinforcements means more results,” Sloly said.
He said the police response to the Ottawa demonstrations is estimated to have cost over $10 million to date, with that number “likely on the low side” as costs have not completely been added up.
He said the cost has been between $700,000 to $800,000 per day for law enforcement.
Involvement from the U.S. has been a concern as the trucker protest evolves over time. Officials have said that funding has been coming from the U.S., and former U.S. president Donald Trump has voiced his support of the demonstration.
A similar trucker convoy protest is being planned for Washington, D.C.
Ottawa currently has around 400 trucks still parked in the city’s “red zone” and law enforcement are removing trucks on a “day by day” basis, according to Sloly.
Ottawa police said Thursday that 12 trucks were removed from the Coventry Road encampment after negotiations and 10 trucks have departed from the downtown core since this morning.
Around 1,775 tickets have been issued since the protest began, such as for “excessive noise” or the use of fireworks, among other infractions, police also said.
There are currently 126 active criminal offence investigations related to the demonstration and 25 arrests have been made so far, including for public mischief and resisting police.
Sloly’s comments come as effects from the trucker convoy in Ottawa spilled over into new frontiers, including protesters mobilizing at the city’s airport.
Earlier Thursday, city officials had warned of traffic disruptions at the international airport. Some members appeared to be encircling the airport.
That now appears to have ended, but it remains unclear whether the group will move to a different site or return to the airport.
Ottawa police had told Global News they are “aware” of the convoy’s presence at the airport and shortly after, issued a tweet warning of attempts to target emergency lines.
Convoy coordinator John Bancroft told Global News that truckers appearing at the airport has to do with making “their presence known.”
“People are sick of being trapped,” he said, referring to Canada’s rule that air travellers must be fully vaccinated.
“We worked so hard for our money. We can’t even go spend it if we want to be going on vacation.”
The convoy continues to spread out to sites across the city, and police remain under continued pressure from frustrated residents to end the convoy.
Ottawa city council also became a target Thursday morning.
Councillors were gathering to meet virtually for planning committee but had not yet started city business when the YouTube livestream was interrupted.
The message “OTTAWA POLICE HAS FAILED ITS CITIZENS” occupied the stream for nearly two minutes. Later updates added “Jim Watson has failed us, Sloly has failed us, Trudeau has failed us,” referencing the city’s mayor, police chief and the prime minister.
The stream was shut down and the video removed.
When planning committee resumed a few minutes later, deputy clerk Caitlin Salter-MacDonald seemed to confirm the hack but said the meeting’s public stream should be cleared to continue.
“We were able to resolve the security issue that allowed someone to briefly gain access to the livestream for the planning committee. We believe that issue has been resolved, we’ve been in touch with IT and we’ll be doing a review after the meeting to ensure that does not reoccur again,” she said at the top of the restarted meeting.
City clerk Rick O’Connor said later that afternoon in a note to the mayor and council that the “compromise was a result of human error in the Clerk’s office, and has now been resolved.”
Thursday morning’s planning committee, which considered details of the city’s new Civic Hospital development, is the last scheduled meeting of city business for two weeks. Council voted Wednesday to forgo non-essential committee meetings amid the ongoing demonstrations.
Federal, provincial and municipal leaders are now calling the activities of the convoy “unlawful” and “illegal,” and Ottawa police have said they are worried about the presence of children in roughly one-quarter of the vehicles still encamped around the city.
Child services have been engaged, officials said earlier in the week.
The Ontario Ministry of Child and Youth Services said it could not comment on whether any investigations have been opened by local aid societies into the welfare of the children in the trucks.
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