Several criminal investigations underway after Ottawa protests over Covid-19 warrants

“Several criminal investigations are ongoing regarding the desecration of the National War Memorial/Statute of Terry Fox, threatening/illegal/intimidating behavior toward police/city employees and others, and damage to a city ​​vehicle,” the Ottawa Police Service tweeted Sunday.

This weekend’s protests grew out of the “freedom convoy” that crossed Canada for several days before arriving in Ottawa on Saturday. It started as a protest from truckers opposed to vaccine requirements, before gaining supporters also calling for an end to other Covid-19 terms.

The mandate, which took effect on January 15requires truckers entering Canada to be fully vaccinated or subject to testing and quarantine requirements, although Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told reporters last week that 90% of the country’s truckers were already vaccinated (Trudeau’s office did not reveal the location of the prime minister, whose family lives about a mile from the Hill of Parliament).

Ottawa police were working with protest organizers on Sunday night “to facilitate the safe departure” of people and vehicles from the downtown area where protests were concentrated.

Police have observed “multiple instances of disruptive, inappropriate and threatening behavior by protesters” and are aware of protesters’ intention to remain in place all week, a declaration of the Ottawa Police Service said.

Police avoided issuing tickets and towing vehicles “so as not to provoke clashes with protesters”, but clashes and the need for de-escalation regularly occurred between police and protesters, according to the communicated.

The agency estimated that the financial costs of policing the protests amounted to more than $800,000 a day.

On Saturday, the protests were generally peaceful, police said – but loud. The sound of car horns was heard across the capital, although many protesters were concentrated in the city center, causing traffic in and around Parliament Hill and prompting city officials to ask residents to avoid the area due to traffic jam.

And while temperatures only reached 8 degrees Fahrenheit, the cold didn’t stop crowds from joining the convoy on foot or saluting them with Canadian flags on highway bridges and overpasses.

No arrests were reported by the Ottawa Police Service on Saturday and overnight. But there have been incidents that have drawn condemnation from officials such as Canada’s defense chief, General Wayne Eyre, who said he was “sickened to see protesters dancing at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and desecrating the National War Memorial”.

“Generations of Canadians have fought and died for our rights, including free speech, but not for this,” Eyre tweeted on Saturday. “Those involved should bow their heads in shame.”

A similar denunciation also came from the Canadian Trucking Alliance, a federation of Canadian trucking associations, which had already said many of the protesters in Ottawa appeared to have no connection to the trucking industry.

“The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and the National War Memorial are sacred sites for Canadians. The desecration of these sites was a disgusting act and a disgrace to the soldiers who gave their lives for our country and to the Canadian soldiers who continue to fight for our freedom today,” the CTA said in a statement.

He went on to call Terry Fox, the late athlete and cancer research activist, a “national hero”. The defacement of Fox’s monument was another insult to “the memory of one of the greatest Canadians in our history”, the federation said.

A photo retweeted by James Moore, Canada’s former minister for innovation, science and industry, showed the statue holding an upside-down Canadian flag and a sign reading, “Freedom of office. Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson called the display “completely unacceptable”, saying he had asked for the sign and flag to be removed. “These kind of stunts from protesters don’t help their cause,” the mayor said.

Trucks and cars still lined the streets of downtown Ottawa on Sunday morning, and again protesters showed no signs of leaving despite a frostbite warning with temperatures as low as -4 degrees Fahrenheit.

Ottawa police promised a “very large police presence” on Sunday and said national monuments would be fortified and protected. Barricades were installed to “block all vehicular access to the road in front of the National War Memorial”.

“The OPS and our partners continue to focus on keeping the peace in and around protests and maintaining emergency access routes while addressing any high-risk threatening behavior,” police said. Ottawa in a statement Sunday morning.

People who work in downtown Ottawa are being asked to work remotely on Monday and parents should check to see if area schools will be open, police said Sunday evening.

CNN’s Paula Newton reported from Ottawa, and Dakin Andone and Keith Allen reported and wrote in Atlanta. CNN’s Chris Boyette and Artemis Moshtaghian contributed to this report.

Mark M. Gagnon