Protests against COVID-19 public health measures continue in Ottawa as parked trucks narrow traffic

Ottawa city center is once again filled with the sound of hooting and singing, while thousands of truck drivers and other opponents of COVID-19 vaccine mandates and public health restrictions gathered near Parliament Hill on Sunday for another full day of protests.

Much of downtown Ottawa remains clogged with parked vehicles and crowds of protesters. A large police presence was maintained overnight and Sunday.

The protest was originally focused on the federal government’s vaccine mandate for cross-border truck drivers, but it has expanded to a larger movement against broader public health measures to limit the spread of COVID-19.

Police in riot gear stormed a rally on Saturday, removing hundreds of protesters by truck.

A pylon has been set up in front of the cenotaph at the National War Memorial in Ottawa on Sunday amid protests against COVID-19 vaccine mandates and other public health measures. (Kathleen Harris / CBC)

In addition to shouting and shouting, the protests on Friday and Saturday were peaceful, with Ottawa police not reporting any cases of violence or injuries. Organizers have repeatedly urged protesters to be peaceful and avoid aggressive behavior, threats and intrusion.

However, the loud and disturbing protests on Saturday contained several incidents condemned as disrespectful, including protesters jumping on the unknown soldier’s grave and adorning a statue of Terry Fox with anti-vaccine material and a Canadian flag on his head.

Ottawa police say there are “several criminal investigations” underway in connection with these incidents. Police said they are also investigating what they describe as threatening, illegal and intimidating behavior by protesters towards officers and city workers, as well as damage to a city vehicle.

SE | A look at the ground on the Parliament Hill protests:

A look at the ground on the Parliament Hill protests

CBC’s David Common provides an update on the state of protests in Ottawa on Saturday, as thousands called for an end to COVID-19 vaccine mandates and other public health restrictions. 1:26

Shepherds of Good Hope, a homeless shelter just a few blocks from Parliament Hill, reported that a service user and a security guard was assaulted and its staff were harassed by protesters who forced them to provide meals during the last 24 hours.

Public order officers from the Toronto Police Service are working on the grounds of the National War Memorial on Sunday during a demonstration against COVID-19 restrictions on Parliament Hill. (Justin Tang / The Canadian Press)

Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson said many of the city’s residents are reaching a boiling point.

“Honestly, they feel like they’s prisoners in their own home. And so my hope is that at some point, the police will come to the conclusion that it’s time to take a serious discussion about moving these people forward. They can not keep blocking routes that are emergency routes, it is bus routes that allow people to get in and out of the city center, he told CBC’s political chief correspondent, Rosemary Barton. Rosemary Barton live on Sunday.

“You have the right to protest, you have had your protest, please move on. Our city needs to come back in the normal way.”

The government says it stands by the mandate

Some of the protesters carried Canadian flags, while others held posters urging people to “think for themselves,” a slogan used in anti-vaccine circles. Some protesters were seen leading the Patriot flag, a nod to the Lower Canada uprisings of 1837-38, as French-speaking settlers from present-day Quebec fought against British colonial rule.

At least one Confederate flag was discovered in the crowd, a detention from the American Civil War that is often associated with racist and right-wing extremist elements. Native protesters flew the Mohawk warrior flag and waved the Métis Nation flag.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his family were not at home in Rideau Cottage on Saturday, and his office did not discuss his whereabouts for security reasons.

Transport Minister Omar Alghabra said the federal government stands by its vaccination rules for cross-border truck drivers and still plans to move forward with introducing rules to make vaccination mandatory for federally regulated industries, which will include inter-provincial truck drivers.

“So there is work going on right now. That policy is not in place, but no one should be surprised that work is being done to get us there,” he said Sunday on Rosemary Barton Live.

“The task of the government is always to listen to all views and take them into account. I would also like to say that I am relieved that the protest has so far been peaceful and I hope that if the protest continues, it will continue to remain peaceful and respectful – even if it is discussed whether it has been respectful or not. “

Thousands of truck drivers and other protesters gathered in Ottawa on Saturday to demonstrate against vaccine mandates and other COVID-19 public health measures. (Alexander Behne / CBC)

It is not clear how long the protesters intend to stay. Ottawa Police Chief Peter Sloly has said any decision to end the protest early or let it extend over the weekend will be based on public safety.

The lower house is set to resume the meeting on Monday after the holiday break.

Heather Bradley, spokeswoman for Parliament’s speaker, said she was not aware of any changes to normal procedures.

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