Truckers and protesters against Covid-19 mandates block a border crossing and flood Canada's capital

By Paula Newton and Holly Yan, CNN

    (CNN) -- What started as a truckers' protest against Covid-19 mandates has snowballed into a blockade in the Canadian capital and gridlock at a US-Canada border crossing.

But now, criminal investigations are underway after the alleged "desecration" of a Canadian landmark and other weekend incidents during protests that have spilled into Monday.

The protests stemmed from the "Freedom Convoy" of truckers that traveled across Canada for several days before arriving in the capital city of Ottawa on Saturday. The drivers oppose a recent vaccine mandate requiring truckers entering Canada to be fully vaccinated or face testing and quarantine requirements.

Downtown Ottawa remained packed with rigs and cars Monday morning as protesters rallied against Covid-19 mandates and some legislators were set to return to Parliament Hill.

But Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was not there. On Monday, Trudeau announced he and two of his three children have tested positive for Covid-19. The prime minister and his family have been quarantining at an undisclosed location.

In western Canada, trucks and cars have been blocking the Coutts border crossing just north of Sweet Grass, Montana, where Interstate 15 is a major commercial artery for US-Canada supply chains.

The critical route is called Highway 4 on the Canadian side.

"Alberta RCMP ask motorists to continue to stay away from Hwy 4 south of #Lethbridge to the #Coutts border crossing," the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in Alberta tweeted late Sunday.

"Traffic continues to remain immobilized in both the NB and SB directions. At this time, no motor vehicles are able to access the border for entry/re-entry," the agency said.

Monuments allegedly damaged

On Sunday, the Ottawa Police Service tweeted criminal investigations have been opened in connection to the "desecration of the National War Memorial/Terry Fox statute, threatening/illegal/intimidating behavior to police/city workers and other individuals and damage to a city vehicle."

Canada's chief of defense, Gen. Wayne Eyre, said he was "sickened to see protesters dance on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and desecrate the National War Memorial."

"Generations of Canadians have fought and died for our rights, including free speech, but not this," Eyre tweeted Saturday. "Those involved should hang their heads in shame."

A similar denunciation came from the Canadian Trucking Alliance (CTA), a federation of Canadian trucking associations, which already had said a large number protesters in Ottawa appeared to have no connection to the trucking industry.

"The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and the National War Memorial are sacred sites for Canadians," the CTA said in a statement. "The desecration of these sites was a disgusting act and is a dishonour to those soldiers who have given their lives for our country and those Canadian soldiers who continue to fight for our freedom today."

The CTA called Terry Fox, the late athlete and cancer research activist, a "national hero." The alleged defacing of Fox's monument was another insult to "the memory of one of the greatest Canadians in our history," it said.

One photo retweeted by James Moore, Canada's former minister of innovation, science and industry, showed the statue holding an upside-down Canadian flag and a sign that read, "Mandate Freedom."

Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson called the display "completely unacceptable," and said he'd asked for the sign and flag to be taken down.

"This kind of stunt by protesters does not help their cause," the mayor said.

Police advised people who work in Ottawa's downtown core to work remotely Monday.

Not over yet

Despite frigid temperatures, photos have shown supporters joining the convoy of truckers on foot or greeting them with Canadian flags on bridges and highway overpasses.

Authorities reported "multiple cases of disruptive, inappropriate and threatening behavior from demonstrators," and are aware of demonstrators' intention to stay in place through the week, the Ottawa Police Service said.

The agency estimated the financial costs of policing around the demonstrations was more than $800,000 a day.

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