A protester shouts ‘freedom’ at a person who tried to stick a paper sign on a truck criticizing the Freedom Convoy protest against COVID-19 measures on Monday.

Justin Tang/The Canadian Press/via AP


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Justin Tang/The Canadian Press/via AP


A protester shouts ‘freedom’ at a person who tried to stick a paper sign on a truck criticizing the Freedom Convoy protest against COVID-19 measures on Monday.

Justin Tang/The Canadian Press/via AP

OTTAWA, Ontario — Ottawa’s police chief was ousted on Tuesday after coming under fire for his inaction against trucker protests that have paralyzed Canada’s capital for more than two weeks, while the number of blockades maintained by protesters in the US border fell to only one.

The dual development came a day after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau invoked Canada’s Emergency Act and threatened to take tough legal and financial action to end unrest in Ottawa and beyond by protesters denouncing the country’s COVID-19 restrictions and the Trudeau government.

Ottawa Police Chief Peter Sloly has lost his job after failing to act decisively against the bumper-to-bumper protest of hundreds of truckers. Protests by the so-called Freedom Convoy infuriated many residents, who complained of being harassed and intimidated in the streets.

“Like other Ottawa residents, I have watched in disbelief as this carnival mayhem has been allowed to continue,” said Diane Deans, chair of the Ottawa Police Services Board, in announcing Sloly’s departure. . She added that protesters had turned the city center into a street party with big screens, hot tubs and an outdoor gym.

Sloly said in a statement that he had done everything possible to keep the city safe, calling it an “unprecedented and unpredictable crisis”.

The Ottawa Police Commission said 360 vehicles remained involved in the blockade in the downtown core, down from a high of around 4,000. A command center was set up so the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the Ontario Provincial Police can take control of the situation, apparently relegating the Ottawa police to a secondary role.

Acting Ottawa Police Chief Steve Bell said he believes authorities have reached a turning point: “I believe we now have the resources and the partners to safely end this occupation.

Meanwhile, honking trucks rolled out of the Alberta border town of Coutts, across from Montana, ending the siege that had disrupted trade for more than two weeks. Earlier this week, police arrested 11 people at the site and seized firearms and ammunition.

The end of the blockade apparently left only one clogged border crossing, at Emerson, Manitoba, across from North Dakota, authorities said. And gendarmes said they were confident the protesters would leave soon and leave on Wednesday.

Over the weekend, police broke the blockade at the busiest and most important crossing point, the Ambassador Bridge between Windsor, Ont., and Detroit, arresting dozens of protesters. The nearly week-long protest disrupted car production in both countries, but was back to normal on Tuesday.

Authorities also said traffic was moving again at the Pacific Highway border crossing south of Vancouver across from Washington state. RCMP said officers ordered protesters out on Monday night and several were arrested.

Protesters in the capital seemed more rooted.

Erik Mueller, a truck driver who quit his job to join the blockade in Ottawa, called the emergency measures aimed at drivers “crazy”.

“We are not backing down,” he said. “We have too much to lose.”

Wayne Narvey said he took a leap of faith a week ago and drove his 30-year-old motorhome from New Brunswick through a snowstorm to the capital.

Ottawa city officials negotiated on Monday to move some trucks to the Legislative Building and away from downtown residences, after residents of nearby residential areas complained about noise from the protest.

Justin Tang/The Canadian Press/AP


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Ottawa city officials negotiated on Monday to move some trucks to the Legislative Building and away from downtown residences, after residents of nearby residential areas complained about noise from the protest.

Justin Tang/The Canadian Press/AP

“They can take our bank accounts, they can freeze our assets, they can strip the insurance from our vehicles,” he said. “They can play all the games they want. We’re not leaving.”

Canada’s Emergencies Act allows the government to break blockades and start towing trucks. The government also announced plans to freeze truckers’ bank accounts and suspend their licenses, and target crowdfunding sites that support the lockdowns.

Under emergency arrangements, the government can also force tow trucks to remove platforms. Until now, some towing companies have been reluctant to cooperate out of sympathy for truckers or fear of violence.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford, whose province includes both Ottawa and Windsor, said: “Hopefully the police can get around in the next few days, hopefully sooner.”

Trudeau’s decision to invoke the Emergencies Act came amid growing frustration with government inaction and fears of violence.

The siege in Alberta, where firearms were confiscated, showed that “you have a very small, hard core and driven by ideology,” said Canadian Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino. “We have been lucky so far, there has been no mass violence.”

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Gillies reported from Toronto. Associated Press writers Ted Shaffrey and Wilson Ring in Ottawa, Ontario, and Tom Krisher in Detroit contributed to this report.