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Ottawa mayor says deal with convoy protesters could clear residential streets in downtown

Local residents participate in a counter-protest, preventing vehicles from driving in a convoy en route to Parliament Hill, on the 17th day of a protest against COVID-19 measures that has grown into a broader anti-government protest, in Ottawa, Sunday, Feb. 13, 2022.Justin Tang/The Canadian Press

The Ottawa mayor’s office says it has reached an agreement with protest organizers to move the trucks that have clogged traffic and residential neighbourhoods in the capital’s downtown core for the third weekend to protest COVID-19 public-health measures.

In a letter to Mayor Jim Watson, one of the organizers of the convoy agreed to concentrate the roughly 400 trucks around Centretown on Wellington Street, which runs along the Parliament buildings, and away from residential areas.

Wellington Street is already jammed for blocks with tractor-trailers and tents for the protest, so some of the trucks will need to move to other locations, although where exactly, Mr. Watson said Sunday, is still being finalized.

Another question is whether the drivers in trucks lining adjacent streets will cede to the request to move, although Mr. Watson said organizers believed the majority of them would agree to do so.

In his letter to the protesters, dated Saturday, Mr. Watson said he would meet with them to discuss their concerns if he had “clear evidence” of the 400 trucks moving by Monday noon.

“Our residents are exhausted and on edge, and our small businesses impacted by your blockades are teetering on the brink of permanent closure,” he wrote.

A response signed by Tamara Lich, who has identified herself as an organizer of the protest and launched the now-defunct GoFundMe fundraising campaign, said the protesters would start “repositioning their trucks on Monday.” She said she would work to get buy-in from them.

Moving the trucks will not alleviate all the concerns of many residents, who have complained of verbal and even physical confrontations with protesters for wearing masks.

Ottawa’s police force has been widely criticized for its failure to crack down on the protesters camped out in the downtown core, who have lit bonfires on streets and have circled through neighbourhoods honking their truck horns for long hours of the day.

Despite a court injunction granted last week that banned honking, drivers continued to sound off their horns well into the evening Saturday and throughout Sunday. On Wellington, where tractor trailers are already wedged in together, the protest continued this past weekend, with speeches and music, a bouncy house and pickup hockey – even a hot tub.

On CTV’s Question Period Sunday, Emergency Preparedness Minister Bill Blair criticized the lack of police response in Ottawa, and said the federal government had discussed invoking emergency powers to address the protests.

As of Saturday morning, Ottawa police said they had made 26 arrests related to criminal charges, and issued more than 2,600 tickets. In a statement, the police service said theyhave a plan to “end this unlawful occupation,” and are awaiting reinforcements.

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