Truckers continue vaccine mandate protest in Canada
(CNN) – Canada’s capital remains paralyzed for the second straight weekend by a trucker protest. The truckers have blocked the streets of Ottawa with their big rigs to protest the country’s COVID-19 mandates.
While the noisy protest has been largely peaceful, police are stepping up personnel with the rise in violent threats.
The protests continued all day long and at all hours of the night. Those with the so-called “Freedom Convoy” say they’re staying out until vaccine mandates are dropped, the masks come off, and life returns to the way it was.
“This whole event has gone beyond just vaccines and it is now about the entire ordeal,” protester James McDonald said.
“We’re asking for freedom, that’s all we want,” another protester said.
The protesters have been free to park big rigs next to the prime minister’s office and to set up camp in front of the country’s national parliament.
As frustrated as the protesters are, Ottawa residents say they feel like hostages and want police to do more.
“I understand the police force does not want to directly intervene for fear of violence but it feels like we’ve been left alone a little bit,” resident Jack Krentz said.
One woman was so desperate, she tried to appeal directly to the protesters.
“The downtown residents, children, elderly are suffering,” she said.
Protesters seemed to hear her, but they’re not listening.
“This is nothing but disruptive, they’re claiming their freedom and yet I can’t ever hear anything, I cant even, like, hear anything myself,” another resident said.
Ottawa police say they have learned much in the past week, especially after reports of assaults, intimidation and allegations of hate symbols and speech.
“Our goal is to end the demonstration,” Ottawa Police Chief Peter Sloly said.
To try and do that, they have called in more reinforcements, moving to what they call a surge and contain strategy.
“This remains as it was from the beginning an increasingly dangerous and increasingly volatile situation,” Sloly said.
And the protest is spreading across the country with a handful of protests now, including a border blockade between Alberta and Montana.
Toronto, Canada’s largest city, is closing a large section in front of the provincial legislature this weekend as trucker’s descend. More worrying, they are closing off the adjacent hospital row where exhausted healthcare workers carry on battling COVID.
“Anyone who attempts to disrupt hospital access and routes of emergency operations including ambulance, fire or police will be subject to strict enforcement,” Toronto Police Chief James Ramer said.
Both police and political leaders are now warning that the protests are resembling an occupation, with no quick or easy end.
Canadian authorities point out that their records show 90% of truckers are vaccinated north of the border.
While organizers of the Freedom Convoy say 50,000 trucks are involved, however, Ottawa police estimate it could be as little as 5,000.
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