Thousands protest in Ottawa against COVID-19 mandates and restrictions

OTTAWA, Ontario — Thousands of protesters rallied in Canada’s capital on Saturday to protest vaccination mandates, masks and lockdowns.

The sounds of honking horns echoed through downtown Ottawa. A convoy of trucks and cars parked around Parliament Hill with some spaces on the grounds of the National War Memorial before police ordered them to move.

“Parking on this sacred site, which includes the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, was a show of utter disrespect,” Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson tweeted.

Some compared the COVID restrictions to fascism and used Nazi symbols on upside down Canadian flags. One truck carried a Confederate flag, while many carried signs laden with explosive devices targeting Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

The statue of the late Terry Fox, a national hero who lost a leg to bone cancer as a teenager and then embarked on a fundraising trip across Canada in 1980, was hung with an inverted Canadian flag with a sign that read, “Mandate Freedom .”

David Santos said he’s from Montreal because he believes vaccination mandates aren’t health-related, but what he calls a “control thing” by governments.

The convoy of truckers and others prompted police to prepare for the possibility of violence and warn residents to avoid downtown. A senior parliamentary security official advised lawmakers to lock their doors amid reports their private homes could be attacked.

Trudeau said Canadians are not represented by this “very troubling, small but very vocal minority of Canadians who are taking action against science, government, society, mandates and public health advice.”

The prime minister’s travel schedule for the day usually says he’s in Ottawa when he’s home, but on Saturday the National Capital Region said amid a report that he’s been moved to an undisclosed location.

Some are partially protesting a new rule that went into effect on January 15 that requires truckers entering Canada to be fully immunized against the coronavirus. The United States has imposed the same requirement on truck drivers entering that country.

The Canadian Trucking Alliance said a large number of the protesters had no connection to the trucking industry, adding that they had to push a separate agenda. The alliance said in a statement that the industry must adapt and comply with this mandate, noting that the vast majority of drivers have done so.

Protest organizers have called for the violent removal of all COVID-19 restrictions and vaccination requirements, and others have called for Trudeau’s removal.

Some opposition Conservative lawmakers served coffee to the protesters and the party leader met with some truckers. The protest has also garnered support from Donald Trump Jr. and some Fox News figures.

“Today, democracy is threatened not only in America,” tweeted former US Ambassador to Canada Bruce Heyman. Heyman previously said the Confederate flag and what it represents is offensive to most Americans and should be to Canadians as well.

The Parliamentary Protection Service expects up to 10,000 demonstrators to attend a weekend rally.

“I’m locked up in my own country right now,” said Tom Pappin, an unvaccinated man who was from near Ottawa. “I can’t go on vacation. I can’t go to a restaurant, I can’t go bowling. I can’t go to the cinema. You know, these are things that just got out of control.”

The 52-year-old said attendees would likely remain parked by Parliament until vaccine mandates are lifted.

Phil Haggart was among the group protesting the convoy’s message and said he wanted to show there were voices for public health action to slow the spread of the virus. “Masks matter, vaccines matter and mandates only matter because we need them to stay alive and not fill our hospitals,” he said as protesters rang cowbells nearby.

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