PUSH NEWS 24 INTERNATIONAL : February 5th, 2022
From the western province of Alberta, moving east to Quebec City, and in cities and towns in between, thousands of Canadians have hit the streets in trucks, tractors, cars and on foot to protest the nation’s Covid-19 restrictions.
With persistent and noisy horn honking, protesters are demanding governments at all levels lift their health restrictions, including vaccine and mask mandates, lockdowns and restrictions on businesses and gatherings.
“The whole event has gone beyond just vaccines and it is now about the entire ordeal,” protester James MacDonald told CNN, adding he’s been in Ottawa since last weekend and has no intention of leaving until health measures are dropped.
The “Freedom Convoy” was initially started by truckers protesting a recent mandate requiring drivers entering Canada to be fully vaccinated or face testing and quarantine requirements. But others have joined the cause. Demonstrators reached Ottawa, Canada’s capital, last weekend, and its organizers said the protests will linger there and elsewhere if necessary.
Ottawa’s police chief called it a “nationwide insurrection driven by madness,” claiming his city was under siege and would need more reinforcements beyond those it had already received from other police forces.
“We do not have sufficient resources to adequately and effectively address this situation while adequately, effectively providing policing in this city,” Ottawa Police Chief Peter Sloly warned during a police services meeting Saturday.
While mostly non-violent, the protests have been noisy and chaotic, and some residents, especially in Ottawa, said they feel like they’re being held hostage by demonstrators.
“I understand the police force does not want to directly intervene for fear of violence,” Ottawa resident Jack Krentz told CNN this week, “but it feels like we’ve been left alone a little bit.”
Numerous businesses in Ottawa have complained to city officials they are losing money and customers, and the majority of businesses in Ottawa’s downtown core have been closed for more than a week or have been operating with reduced hours.
Ottawa police said they have responded to more than 400 calls for service related to the demonstrations since they began last week. At least 50 criminal investigations are underway, including 11 involving potential hate crimes.
But it’s not just Ottawa: Toronto, Canada’s largest city, also saw thousands take to the streets Saturday. And despite the efforts of Toronto police, several trucks blocked a major intersection for hours.
Police reported problems clearing the way for emergency vehicles close to the protest, warning again in a statement this was “unacceptable and will not be tolerated.”
Quebec City similarly reported thousands of protesters and hundreds of trucks clogging streets while residents and visitors tried to enjoy the advent of a winter carnival.
While the protests were started by truckers, those who have joined them and donated money include many who said they are vaccinated and have so far complied with public health measures.
“We’re asking for freedom, that’s all,” said one couple who joined the protest in Ottawa this week.
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