Crippling Protests in Canada Over COVID-19 Rules Enter Second Week as Reported Hate-Related Cases Probed

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Protests across Canada over a gamut of Covid-19 regulations are stretching into the second week of blocked roads and sometimes-dangerous rallies, with claims of hate-related incidents under investigation and arrests made amid reports of rocks and eggs thrown.

Sparked by truckers who drove into the heart of Ottawa on January 29 to protest new coronavirus vaccine and testing rules, more demonstrations with trucks left idling in roads sprouted over the weekend. In Toronto, trucks blocked a major intersection for hours, impeding emergency responders. Protests also erupted in Winnipeg, Vancouver, and Quebec City.
Trucks and hundreds of protesters on Monday still occupy the downtown core in Ottawa, where fuel is banned from entering the protest "red zone" in front of parliament. Of more than 60 criminal investigations underway in the capital city, most involve alleged hate crimes, property damage, thefts, and mischief, police there said.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who announced a week ago he tested positive for COVID-19, remains isolated at an undisclosed location, with only private meetings on his schedule for the day; he is fully vaccinated and boosted.
Ottawa's city council is set to meet Monday, a day after Mayor Jim Watson declared a state of emergency because of the "Freedom Convoy" protests. Most businesses in downtown Ottawa have been closed for more than a week or have reduced hours, with owners complaining of financial losses as customers dwindle.

"Declaring a state of emergency reflects the serious danger and threat to the safety and security of residents posed by the ongoing demonstrations and highlights the need for support from other jurisdictions and levels of government," Watson said in a statement. 

The demonstrations began as an objection to a recent vaccine mandate requiring truckers entering Canada to either be fully vaccinated or face testing and quarantine requirements. Other protesters have joined to rail against mask mandates, lockdowns, restrictions on gatherings, and other COVID-19 preventative efforts.
"The whole event has gone beyond just vaccines, and it is now about the entire ordeal," protester James MacDonald told CNN, adding he's been in Ottawa since last weekend and has no plan to leave until health measures are dropped.
Canada has one of the highest vaccination rates in the world, with about 4 in every 5 Canadians fully vaccinated, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

Ottawa police investigating potential hate crimes

Ottawa's hate-motivated crime hotline -- established after reports of anti-Semitic, racist, and homophobic acts at the COVID-19 protests -- has gotten more than 200 calls, according to police.

"We already have a number of hate-related incidents that we're investigating," Ottawa Police Chief Peter Sloly said last week. "We encourage anyone who's been the victim of a hate crime or think they may have been the victim of a hate crime or exposed to hate incidents to contact us."

At least seven arrests were made Sunday in the city and at least 450 citations issued since Saturday morning, the Ottawa Police Service said, including for excessive honking, driving the wrong way or on a sidewalk, not wearing a seat belt, having alcohol readily available and having the improper class of driving license.
Demonstrators "exhibited extremely disruptive and unlawful behavior," police said in a statement, which created "risks to public safety and unacceptable distress" for residents.
Police have repeatedly advised demonstrators to "not enter Ottawa, and go home."
Vehicles and fuel have been seized, police said, and they are advising "anyone found bringing fuel to the demonstration trucks in the red zone could be subject to arrest and charges." Officers have responded to more than 650 calls for service in relation to the demonstrations since they began, police said Sunday.

A weekend of arrests and protests

In Vancouver, several hundred vehicles traveled through the city en route to a demonstration there, Vancouver Police said. Five people were arrested Saturday amid reports of "rocks and eggs being thrown, cars being kicked, and nails being strewn on roadways," police said. The five were taken to jail and released, police said.
Among them was a 29-year-old US citizen from Washington state who was arrested after officers saw him wearing a balaclava and pulling a wagon full of egg cartons, police said. The man had a knife in a sheath tied to his belt, and two eggs in his jacket pocket, they said.
"Everyone has the right to peacefully assemble and express their views, and the Vancouver Police Department is committed to providing a safe environment for lawful protest," said police Sgt. Steve Addison. "Today's protests attracted thousands of people who feel passionately about their causes. While most protesters were peaceful, some had to be arrested for violent behavior and unlawful conduct."
In Toronto, Canada's largest city, thousands took to the streets Saturday. And despite the efforts of Toronto police, several trucks blocked a major intersection for hours. Police reported problems clearing the way for emergency vehicles near the protest, warning again in a statement this was "unacceptable and will not be tolerated."
Quebec City similarly reported thousands of protesters and hundreds of trucks clogging streets while residents and visitors tried to enjoy a winter carnival.
In Winnipeg, a demonstration Friday night turned dangerous when a man drove into a crowd, hitting four people, according to the Winnipeg Police Department. Three of those hit didn't require medical attention and the fourth was treated and released from an area hospital, police said.
The suspect was arrested after a brief struggle with law enforcement, authorities said. "Some comments he made after his arrest suggested that his motivation was not specifically about the underlying causes of the protests or the mandates," Constable Rob Carver of the Winnipeg Police Service said Saturday.
He faces 11 charges, including assault with a weapon, dangerous operation of a conveyance and failure to stop after an accident, authorities said.

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