The so-called convoy of freedom is a rally against the vaccine demand for cross-border truck drivers.
Hundreds of truck drivers have taken their giant platforms to the Canadian capital, Ottawa, to protest Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s COVID-19 vaccination mandates needed to cross the United States border.
The so-called “Freedom Convoy” – coming from East and West – began as a rally against the vaccine demand for cross-border truckers, but turned into a demonstration against government overdoing it during the pandemic with a strong anti-vaccination series.
More than two hours before the official start of the protest on Saturday, the streets of downtown Ottawa were filled with trucks as the roaring, incessant signal of dozens of air horns filled the air, an AFP reporter reported.
“I want all this to stop, these measures are unjustified,” said one of the protesters, 31-year-old businessman Philip Castonguai, in front of the parliament building.
Few wore masks, but many were in balaclavas, as the wind temperature was minus 21 degrees Celsius (minus 6 degrees Fahrenheit). About 2,700 trucks are expected by the end of the day, a federal government source said.
The violent rhetoric used by some of the promoters on social networks on the eve of the protest alarmed the police, who were in force.
“We are best prepared for those who have chosen to come here to harm or harm others,” Ottawa Police Chief Peter Sloley said Friday, adding that the demonstration would be “large-scale.” .
Trudeau and his family have left their home in downtown Ottawa due to security concerns, the CBC reported.
On Friday, Trudeau told the Canadian Press that he was worried about possible violence related to the demonstration. Earlier this week, he said the convoy was a “small-edge minority” that did not represent Canadians.
About 90 percent of cross-border truck drivers in Canada and 77 percent of the population have received two vaccines against COVID.
“The right to be heard”
Trudeau announced a mandate for a vaccine for federal workers in October on the eve of the election, and then last month, both Canada and the United States imposed a mandate for cross-border truck drivers.
Conservative leader Erin O’Toole opposes vaccine mandates and voiced support for the protest after talks with some of the truck drivers on Friday.
“I support their right to be heard and call on Justin Trudeau to meet with these hard-working Canadians to hear their concerns,” O’Toole said after the meeting.
Conservative MP Michael Cooper handed out coffee to protesters on Saturday.
The protest was approved Thursday by Tesla and SpaceX founder Elon Musk, who tweeted: “Canadian truck drivers drive.”
The Canadian Trucking Alliance, a large industrial group, said it “strongly disapproves” of the Ottawa rally.