(Ottawa) New convoys of truckers from across Canada have begun to enter the nation’s capital. Assailed by demonstrators without masks, almost all of the businesses in the Rideau shopping center have closed their doors.
“Freedom”, “Freedom”, chant the dozens of maskless protesters who stormed the downtown Ottawa shopping center. City police are in communication with the CF Fairview administration to deal with the situation.
The flag that crowns Parliament now echoes hundreds of others, waved by demonstrators of all ages and origins. Some dance or play music, others brandish slogans, flags or smoke bombs. Frozen eyelashes and beards, in snowsuits, hunting clothes or high heels, they are assembled in a hubbub of honking, chanting and shouting.
On Wellington Street, across from Parliament, a Canadian flag was hung on top of the crane of a construction truck. Nearby, a stand distributes bottles of water and “freedom fudges”.
Recall that the demonstrators, who oppose the compulsory vaccination of truckers, have been converging on Ottawa for several days, in a movement called “Canada Unity”. Only one of the eight convoys, from Hamilton, arrived on Friday. A large number of protesters also converged on the capital, without accompanying the truckers.
The remaining seven convoys began arriving in the capital around noon on Saturday. “The convoy train is quite long, so there are still some on the highway, told The Press Paramjit Singh of the Ottawa Police Communications Department in the early afternoon. A total of 2,000 vehicles and 5,000 pedestrians are expected. They are directed to parking lots provided at different places in the capital by the authorities.
Maxime Bernier, leader of the People’s Party of Canada, addressed the crowd late Saturday morning.
“I don’t want any more hatred, and regain our freedom,” says Kevin Daize, 51 years old and vaccinated. The Ottawan holds up a sign illustrating a handshake between “vax” and “non-vax”.
Beside him, Christopher Eid, 28 years old unvaccinated from Montreal, adds: “I think our voices should be heard by our Prime Minister. It is a peaceful event that unites Canadians everywhere. »
Clive Henderson, an Ontario postman, who lost his job with the federal government because he was not vaccinated, is also taking part in the movement. “I want my job back, so I hope it [le gouvernement] will change your mind. »
Gadsden Flag and loss of masks
Among the hundreds of Canadian, Quebec or patriot flags also fly flags called Gadsden Flag. Yellow and decorated with a rattlesnake and the motto “Don’t Tread on Me” [ne me piétine pas], these are historical American flags related to the libertarian movement. They were notably used by pro-Trump activists during the assault on the Capitol on January 6, 2021.
“We came to add our names to the cause. It goes too far, blackmail with the population. It goes beyond the limits, ”says Patrick Acke, a young Sherbrooke resident dressed in furs who brandishes a Gadsden Flag on the sidewalk of Wellington Street.
In the surrounding shops and hotels, The Press found that people were no longer wearing masks. “We ask them, but they refuse to put them on,” said the hotel employee who could not speak publicly.
Hundreds of people without masks also found themselves at the Rideau shopping center, located on the other side of the canal of the same name.
A little further, the parade of vehicles in the city center resumed on Saturday. Yves Poulin, who arrived Friday from Saint-Georges-de-Beauce, greets The Press of a ProStar+ truck.
Security measures around the parliament are still in place. The Ottawa Police, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the Parliamentary Protective Service are working in coordination. The latter filter demonstrators’ access to Parliament Hill: any element considered dangerous (sticks, fireworks, etc.) is prohibited on site.
Angélique and Doc Tattoo, two Quebecers met on site, use medicinal sage to ward off evil spirits and to prevent the event from “turning into a squabble. »
Remember that although the leaders of the various convoys are collaborating with the police to ensure a peaceful and safe demonstration, hateful messages inciting criminal acts have also circulated on social networks in recent days. Ottawa police said individuals with extremist views, locally and internationally, joined the movement.
“We are aware of the inappropriate and threatening remarks made on social media in connection with this protest,” Ottawa Police said on Twitter Friday. We welcome peaceful protests. That said, public safety is paramount – there will be consequences for those who engage in criminal acts, violence and activities that promote hatred. »
Early Saturday, downtown Ottawa looked like the morning after, with tents, sleepers in cars, packed hostels and Tim Hortons at full capacity.