Trucker convoy: Protesters arriving on Parliament Hill

Consistent honks from truck horns could be heard through the downtown core on Friday as participants in the trucker convoy drove into the area and began gathering around Parliament Hill in what’s set to be a “unique, fluid, risky, and significant” protest, according to city ​​officials.

Stretches of local roadways were closed, or reduced to a few lanes as truckers and drivers of other vehicles — many sporting Canadian flags — began to cause what could be days of gridlock across Ottawa, with the main protesting set to take place on Saturday.

During a briefing on Friday, Ottawa Police Chief Peter Sloly told reporters that city police have been working with provincial and national agencies including the RCMP to plan for an event that has garnered attention across the country as well as internationally.

“These demonstrations are national in scope, they’ve massive in scale. Unfortunately, they are polarizing in nature, ”Sloly said, adding that“ significantly more ”national security and emergency service resources have been called into Ottawa for the weekend.

There are drivers converging from different routes originating from British Columbia, Atlantic Canada and many places in-between, that are all soon set to be landing into Ottawa with plans to spend the weekend protesting the federal government and pandemic restrictions that they feel curb their freedoms .

Convoys from Western Canada are scheduled to arrive in Arnprior, Ont. late Friday afternoon, before traveling into downtown Ottawa Saturday morning. Convoys from eastern Canada will roll into Vankleek Hill this evening, before completing the journey to Ottawa on Saturday morning.

As the convoy picked up steam — raising now more than $ 7 million through an online fundraiser — concerns were raised based on some of the messaging being put out by those claiming affiliation to the protest and the potential for the demonstration to turn violent.

Ottawa police have been engaged with CSIS and international agencies to conduct threat assessments and have said that while the “core organizers” have expressed their intent to run a lawful event, they are aware of “other groups and individuals” who may not “share the same peaceful goals. ”

Sloly said police are prepared to investigate, arrest, charge, and prosecute anyone committing violent acts or participating in unlawful conduct.

“We have intelligence assets and investigators who will be working throughout the entire event,” he said.

Some trucking organizations have made efforts to distance themselves from the convoy entirely, saying the messaging coming from supporters is tarnishing the largely vaccinated industry.

Because of the security risk, MPs and government staff have been advised to avoid the parliamentary precinct this weekend. Ottawa residents are being asked to brace for “significant” disruptions, and already two downtown vaccination clinics have been closed due to the convoy.

Despite some organizers asserting there will be upwards of hundreds of thousands of participants by the time the convoy reaches the capital, Ottawa police have said they do not have a confirmed number of demonstrators.

With files from CTV News Ottawa

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