THEO VAN GOGH: CANADA IN CORONA PROTEST – Here’s what you need to know about the ‘Freedom Convoy’ rally in Ottawa today
Josh Pringle CTV News Ottawa Digital Multi-Skilled Journalist January 30, 2022
Thousands of trucks remain parked in downtown Ottawa this morning, as another day of protests against COVID-19 vaccine mandates and other public health restrictions begins.The “Freedom Convoy” protest has seen thousands of truck drivers and their supporters fill Parliament Hill and streets in downtown Ottawa, denouncing Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and calling for an end to the restrictions 22 months into the pandemic.
In an interview with CTV News at Six, Acting Deputy Chief Trish Ferguson said there will continue to be an enhanced police presence downtown today.
“We’re part way through this weekend, and we expect we’ll probably have another full day, busy day (Sunday) with more people coming back into the core,” Ferguson said.
“We understand there was some issues with some of the convoys actually getting into the town because of the traffic on the highways, so we expect we will see a full group of people again (Sunday). There may be some speeches and some more demonstrations but we will be present. We will have our officers again deployed in the key areas where we are expecting to see those crowds surge.”
Ottawa police reported no incidence of violence or injuries so far during the “Freedom Convoy” demonstration in downtown Ottawa.
Thousands of people and vehicles filled the streets of downtown Ottawa on Saturday, forcing the city of Ottawa to declare, “Streets in the downtown core are closed due to gridlock. There is no more room for vehicles.”
Motorists are being asked to avoid travelling into the downtown core due to the number of vehicles already in the area.
While police reported no major incidents on Saturday, the Rideau Centre closed early due to a large number of maskless people inside the downtown mall. Top military officials also condemned demonstrators for jumping on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
As of Saturday evening, police and city officials did not know when the protest would end. Mayor Jim Watson admitted there is a possibility there will be large crowds downtown again today.
“My message, again, is clear – You’ve been here, you’ve made your point, you’ve protested, you’ve disrupted a lot of communities – the ByWard Market, Centretown and so on in our city – it’s time for you to go back to your home,” said Watson on CTV News Channel. “Because we have to start rebuilding our economy because COVID-19 has been devastating to a lot of small businesses.”
Ottawa is the final stop of the Freedom Convoy, a cross-country journey to Parliament Hill to protest COVID-19 vaccine mandates. Hundreds of convoy participants arrived on Friday, while the main convoys from eastern and western Canada rolled into town on Saturday.
Ottawa police say the Alexandra and Portage bridges, connecting Ottawa and Gatineau, are closed to vehicle traffic today.
The Champlain Bridge is open, and there are lane reductions on the Macdonald-Cartier Bridge.
Police say the Chaudiere Bridge is open for health care and essential workers only.
“Be prepared to show identification,” said police. “If you are neither, do not use the bridge.”
Many streets in downtown Ottawa are also closed to vehicles, with only one lane open for emergency vehicles.
The Freedom Convoy 2022 GoFundMe page released an itinerary for Sunday in Ottawa.
11 a.m. on Parliament Hill – Pray for Unity Service.
1 p.m. Media conference at an undisclosed location.
What is the Freedom Convoy?
The Freedom Convoy is calling for the end of vaccine mandates in Canada during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“On January 15th, a small team of Alberta truckers, their family members and friends, came to the decision that the Government of Canada has crossed a line with implementing Covid-19 vaccine passports and vaccine mandates,” said a statement Wednesday on the Freedom Convoy 2022 Facebook page.
“As of today, we now have the support of millions of Canadians from across the country.”
The list of demands includes the federal and provincial governments terminating the vaccine passports and all other “obligatory vaccine contact tracing programs”, and terminate COVID-19 vaccine mandates.
The protest was initially sparked by outrage over a vaccine mandate imposed this month on cross-border truckers, but has since garnered support from anti-vaccine mandate groups.
In a statement on Friday, the Freedom Convoy organizers urged participants to “treat all police officers with respect” and “do not make any type of threat.”
“If we keep calm and show love and support for one another, many things will happen. We will eventually cause the government to reverse its policy on Covid passports and vaccine mandates as the UK has recently done,” said Facebook post.