Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson said on Wednesday he has no idea when the Freedom Convoy trucker protests that have clogged the streets of the Canadian capital for the past two weeks will end.
He contemptuously described the protesters as “living in a parallel universe” and dismissed their press conferences as absurdist comedy akin to a “Monty Python sketch” but revealed no plan for improving the situation.
“They’re living in a parallel universe that just does not make any sense. They’re embarrassing themselves. I think they should get on their way; go back to their homes and give back our city to its people,” Watson railed against the protesters.
Watson said he would not meet with protesters until they leave Ottawa.
“They’ve got to get rid of all their rigs and clean up the mess they’ve created in our city and give the city back to the residents,” he insisted.
“Some of the press conferences we’ve seen are out of a Monty Python sketch,” he scoffed, referring to statements made by protest organizers to the media.
The Globe and Mail speculated Watson was mocking Freedom Convoy organizers like Benjamin Dichter, who have demanded audiences with the Governor-General and claimed most rank-and-file police officers support the protest movement.
The Canadian newspaper threw in a few details that evidently struck it as Pythonesque, including protesters stringing up laundry between traffic pylons, making arrangements to duck out from the demonstration for Valentine’s Day dates, and setting up bouncy houses for their children.
The Toronto Star on Wednesday said the federal government is painting the Freedom Convoy protests as a “grave threat to Canada” but “settling into a back-seat role in the crisis,” leaving provincial authorities and city police forces to manage the crisis:
“They’re essentially putting their foot on the throat of all Canadians,” said Bill Blair, the former Toronto police chief and federal minister for emergency preparedness, referring to the protests that have spread across the country.
Yet despite that graphic assessment, the federal government made clear Wednesday that it is not prepared to invoke emergency powers to take the reins of the crisis, which in Ottawa has dragged on for 13 days as truckers and their supporters occupy the streets around Parliament Hill.
“All three orders of government have a responsibility, and that’s why we’re all working together,” Blair said, when asked if the federal government would shift to playing a leading role.
Along similar lines, Ontario Premier Doug Ford expected police and border agents to break up the protest blocking the vital Ambassador Bridge border crossing to the United States, through which almost 30 percent of commerce between the two nations flows.
“The ongoing illegal occupation and blockade happening in Ontario must stop. The damage this is causing to our economy, to people’s jobs and their livelihoods is totally unacceptable. We cannot let this continue,” Ford said on Wednesday.
In addition to some ominous comments about taking action against the protesters because they are allegedly endangering the children camped with them, Ottawa police said on Wednesday they would begin arresting truckers for committing “mischief to property” by blocking city streets.
Freedom Convoy organizer Chris Barber responded that every trucker arrested would be replaced by “three new drivers” and said a call had already gone out for reinforcements.
On the subject of child welfare, organizer Benjamin Dichter said many truckers are accustomed to taking their families along on long hauls, and the protest movement has received abundant offers from residents of Ottawa and Quebec to provide beds for demonstrators who need them.