A state of emergency has been declared in Canada’s capital as ‘freedom’ protesters demonstrate against vaccine mandates in actions that have paralysed the city.
Thousands of people have taken to the streets of Ottawa over the past week and a half in a movement sparked by the government’s requirement that travellers and essential service providers – including truck drivers – be fully vaccinated.
The "Freedom Convoy" has now turned into a rallying point against public health measures and prime minister Justin Trudeau's government.
Hundreds of large trucks are blocking most roads into the city centre, as police crack down on people attempting to bring canisters into the city to refuel them.
Some participants waved Confederate or Nazi flags and others said they want to dissolve Canada's government. Convoy organisers said they will not leave until the vaccine mandates are ended.
Ottawa mayor Jim Watson said residents were in “serious danger” and said there were “far more” protesters than police officers.
"(This) 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," he said in a statement.
Mayor blasts 'disgraceful' behaviour of protesters
Mr Watson slammed the behaviour of some participants who were caught defacing parts of the city and said residents were “terrified”.
“The behaviour by some of these protesters is really disgraceful. Whether it's urinating on the cenotaph or dancing on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, or trying to get free meals from the Shepherds of Good Hope, you know, and putting placards, anti-mask placards around the Terry Fox statue, they're really doing themselves a disservice,” he told CBC Radio.
“…Many of these people are terrified to go out into the street. They're being kept up at night with honking horns and the diesel fumes going everywhere. And they're really doing a disservice to what I think, you know, is a noble profession, being a truck driver.”
The mayor also confirmed many involved in the protest are vaccinated.
Prime Minister evacuated from home
Mr Trudeau, who is isolating after testing positive for Covid last week, has ruled out using the military to disband the protest.
Due to security concerns, he and his family left their downtown home last weekend and his location has not been disclosed.
The prime minister has said the convoy represented a "small fringe minority" and the government would not be intimidated. About 90 per cent of Canada's cross-border truckers and almost 79 per cent of the population has had two vaccine shots.
Police said they had charged four people with hate crimes and were investigating threats against public figures jointly with the US Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Australian protesters surround Government House
On Monday, anti-vaccine mandate protesters, 'sovereign citizens' and conspiracy theorists gathered outside the governor-general's official residence in Canberra.
Hundreds of protesters marched up to the gate at Government House, screaming to "drop the mandate" and "no more corporate governance".
One protester called for Governor-General David Hurley to come out and speak to the people, and stand down the prime minister for treason.
"The people have been woken," one protester said on a livestream of the protests.
Threats were also made directly against the Prime Minister Scott Morrison, with calls for him to face the gallows.
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