Ottawa police say the city’s 911 system is inundated with nuisance calls, putting residents’ lives at risk amid an ongoing standoff with protesters over vaccination warrants.
“We are aware of a concerted effort to flood our reporting line with 911 and non-emergency police services. This puts lives at risk and is completely unacceptable,” police said in a statement released Thursday morning. “It is a crime to call 911 and our non-emergency number unnecessarily. We are tracking calls and will charge anyone who deliberately interferes with emergencies.
The nearly two-week protest in the nation’s capital expanded Thursday morning to include traffic disruptions around Ottawa’s airport.
Earlier on Thursday, police said they negotiated the departure of a dozen lorries from a car park east of the city center on Coventry Road, which has become a sophisticated staging area for the main protest in the streets outside Parliament Hill.
On Wednesday, police issued a “message to protesters” stating that it is a criminal offense to obstruct, disrupt or interfere with the lawful use, enjoyment or operation of property.
“We inform you that anyone who blocks streets or helps others to block streets may commit a criminal offence. You must immediately stop any illegal activity or you could face charges. »
The police messages led to speculation from protesters online Wednesday night that police would soon be heading for more arrests.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Ontario Premier Doug Ford spoke by phone Wednesday evening to discuss the continued protests in Ottawa and at Canada-U.S. border crossings.
In a statement, Ontario’s premier described the protests as “ongoing occupations” and pledged to work with the federal government on a resolution.
“We will continue to work together to support our police forces in handling these situations. We both agreed that this had to end,” Mr Ford said.
While protesters on Parliament Hill have drawn considerable attention, there is a growing focus on the major logistical operation in place at the parking lot of a baseball stadium in Coventry Road which is supporting the disruptions .
A CBC report this week noted that several of the protest organizers have military and RCMP experience.
On Sunday, two organizers provided a Globe reporter with a tour of the Coventry Road facility. The organizers, who declined to be identified, said that for breakfast the day before, the kitchen cooked 6,000 eggs with hash browns.
Semi-trailers line the sides of the camp and there is a visitor center at the entrance.
The interior of the camp is dominated by a tent containing rows of tables and a fully equipped kitchen which served pizza on Sunday afternoons. Other tables were filled with food, toiletries and other supplies. Portable generators provide electricity.
Other tents are fully stocked with food, toiletries and other essentials which organizers say have been donated by supporters. So much material arrived that the organizers temporarily stopped accepting such donations.
There are portable toilets and three portable saunas which are sometimes used for meetings. The assistance center offers refueling services; diesel and gasoline are available. When Ottawa police raided the camp on Sunday evening, they appeared to be focused on evacuating fuel.
Some of the truckers who form the core of the protest are sleeping in their taxis; others, including volunteer supporters, use hotels or house rentals. Some were set up by locals who opened their homes. A shuttle service connects protesters to homes and businesses in the area, giving them access to showers, restrooms and laundry facilities.
Organizers said a veterinarian and chiropractor were providing services and military veterans were providing medical support. A sign near the saunas offered a phone number, email address and website for anyone in need of assistance. Services offered included “medical care, security, trucking operations, food, fuel, shuttles, showers and laundry.”
The support center appeared to be well-run, well-resourced and able to sustain a large protest for weeks or even months.
– With files by John Ibbitson
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