Downtown closures extended as police arrest 7, issue dozens of tickets

Ottawa police issued dozens of tickets Sunday and arrested seven people as the force unveiled plans to prevent people from supplying the protesters in the downtown with gas, food and other 'material supports.'

City has declared a state of emergency over COVID-19 demonstrations

Fuel containers, charcoal briquettes, snow shovels and ice salt are piled in front of a vehicle on Feb. 6, 2022, as a protest against COVID-19 restrictions in Ottawa enters its second week. Ottawa police said Sunday they would begin cutting off fuel, food and other supplies from reaching the protesters in the downtown core. (Justin Tang/The Canadian Press)

Ottawa police issued more than 100 tickets Sunday and arrested seven people as the force unveiled plans to prevent people from supplying the protesters in the downtown with gas, food and other "material supports."

The Ottawa Police Service (OPS) announced the new tactic in a tweet Sunday afternoon, as the protest against COVID-19 public health measures in the city's parliamentary precinct — a protest several political leaders have called an occupation — continues for a second weekend.

Anyone who brings in those supplies could be arrested, OPS said.

Police did not respond to a request for comment, citing officer safety. But on Sunday night the OPS said in a press release that seven people had been arrested over the course of the day — six people on mischief-related charges and one for driving while prohibited.

More than 100 tickets were issued for infractions like excessive honking, driving the wrong way, having easily accessible alcohol and lacking the right class of licence, OPS said.

There are also more than 60 active investigations underway, primarily for hate crimes, thefts, mischief and property damage, police said — down from 97 earlier in the day.

State of emergency declared

The City of Ottawa also declared a state of emergency Sunday, noting it "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."

"Declaring a state of emergency does recognize and reflect on the danger that we're seeing in our city, the dangers and the harassment and just the kind of lawlessness," said Catherine McKenney, councillor for the downtown Somerset ward.

"And then beyond that, it's an administrative tool. It allows us to circumvent rules, for example, around procuring resources we might need."

Earlier in the day, McKenney revealed plans to introduce a motion at a special city council meeting Monday afternoon to bring the protest under federal jurisdiction. 

The announcements come after crowds swelled by thousands throughout the day Saturday and lingered downtown late into the night, blaring horns and setting off fireworks in streets dense with apartment buildings, condos and office towers.

Police said early Sunday that officers had responded to 650 calls for service and issued more than 450 tickets since Jan. 29 for a range of violations that include making excessive noise, using fireworks and failing to drive in a marked lane.

The Freedom Convoy 2022 released a statement Sunday morning calling for a temporary halt to horn honking from the hours of 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. EST.

The press release said the temporary pause in honking was to be done "out of respect for the Lord's Day," members of the military, police and as a "gesture of goodwill."

Despite the promise from organizers to provide quiet in the area, some honking could be heard starting at around 10 a.m. It had become constant by noon.

Protesters clearing out of Confederation Park

Protesters began dismantling a temporary encampment in Confederation Park on Sunday.

A group of protesters had built a wooden shack and stockpiled food and fuel at the park across the street from city hall, but a spokesperson for the group, George Tiger, said they were tearing down the site at the request of Ottawa police.

The temporary camp of protesters at Confederation Park near downtown Ottawa said on Sunday it was relocating to the semi-permanent camp at Coventry Road. (Alexander Behne/CBC)

Tiger told CBC Ottawa the group would relocate to another camp set up in the parking lot near the city-owned baseball stadium on Coventry Road.

On Sunday evening, dozens of heavily armed police officers descended on the baseball stadium. Protesters said police removed the fuel that was being stored on the site to supply trucks parked in in the city centre.

Snipers stood guard on the roof of the stadium and hotel, on either side of the parking lot, as police moved and protesters yelled, "shame, shame."

Ottawa police said two of the day's arrests occurred at Coventry Road.

Calls for aid

After OPS Chief Peter Sloly called for more resources at a rare emergency meeting of the Ottawa Police Services Board Saturday afternoon, several Ottawa city councillors are requesting provincial or federal aid.

Sloly has said he needs "an additional surge of resources" to address the protests, which some Ottawa city councillors have begun describing as an occupation or a siege.

The Ottawa Disability Coalition released an open letter Saturday addressed to Ontario Premier Doug Ford, Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson and Coun. Diane Deans, who is also chair of the Ottawa Police Services Board, demanding they take action to "restore the rights and freedoms of the residents of this occupied area."

Signs line the fence at Parliament Hill on Saturday night during the second weekend of protests against COVID-19 mandates in downtown Ottawa. (Felix Desroches/CBC News)

Tickets issued, funding withdrawn

Although there have been complaints from residents and city councillors that Ottawa police have thus far taken a mostly hands-off approach to protesters, bylaw officers have been ticketing illegally parked cars in and around the city's downtown core.

As of Thursday, officers had issued 115 tickets for parking in "no stopping" and "no parking" areas within the protest perimeter, according to an email to CBC on Saturday. As well, 28 vehicles were towed for "impeding traffic and blocking laneways," the city said.

Two protesters were also spotted on horseback Saturday. Christine Hartig, program manager with the city's bylaw and regulatory services, told CBC in an email that the animal care and control bylaw prohibits livestock like horses from being in areas not zoned for that purpose.

That area includes Ottawa's downtown, she said.

An aerial shot of downtown Ottawa at 6 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 6, 2022, shows the extent of an ongoing demonstration against COVID-19 mandates. (Reno Patry/CBC)

Closures, traffic disruptions continue

Traffic disruptions remain throughout the core, and updates can be found here. 

Downtown bus routes continue to be diverted to Confederation Line stations, according to OC Transpo, while the Sussex Drive entrance of Rideau Station is closed until further notice.

The Rideau Centre is also remaining shut for the time being as "authorities cannot provide any assurances that it is safe to reopen," according to a statement Sunday from mall owner Cadillac Fairview.

City hall and its underground parking lot, the Rink of Dreams and the Main and Rideau library branches will all stay closed on Monday. So will St. Luke's Child Care Centre and Centre éducatif Pinocchio, the city said Sunday evening.

Ottawa Public Health's COVID-19 vaccine hub at the Jules Morin Fieldhouse on Clarence Street will be closed Monday, while the closure of the clinic at the University of Ottawa Minto Sports Complex has been extended until Wednesday.