For the second weekend demonstrators returned to downtown Ottawa. Thousands took to the streets to protest COVID-19 vaccine mandates and other pandemic restrictions in what demonstrators are calling the “Freedom Convoy”. As residents of Ottawa we decided to record our observations.
Diane Deans, Ottawa City Councillor, told a press conference on Saturday that “occupying the city for eight days now is comparable to an “insurrection”, adding that the “city is under siege.”
Thousands of protesters gathered in front of Parliament Hill for what appeared to be a festival with performances, barbecues, a kids’ area, and DJ.
The Ottawa Police Service said Saturday it had responded to more than 400 calls since the start of the demonstration. Over 50 criminal offences are being investigated. 11 of those were hate crimes that resulted in charges against four people.
With protesters closing major downtown streets with trucks and cars, Ottawa Police tried to limit the spread of protesters on the rest of the city roads with barriers.
Police were estimating 300 to 400 trucks to try and enter the downtown core, along with about 2,000 protesters on foot and another 1,000 counter-protesters.
Trucker protests forced downtown residents to close their businesses, such as the Rideau Centre, some small stores and gyms. At the same time, few restaurants and coffee shops were still open to serve the protesters.
Residents organized a “non-violent counter-protest” under the slogan “reclaim our city” on Saturday afternoon at Ottawa City Hall. However, the organizers cancelled after a discussions with the Ottawa Police regarding safety concerns. Some residents still chose to gather in front of Ottawa City Hall, despite police warnings to avoid downtown.
Protesters were observed on horseback on Bank Street moving towards Parliament Hill. Other protesters were seen holding provincial flags, country flags, Canada and the U.S., and groups like the Proud Boys, and the Confederate flag.