‘We’re overrun’: Counter-protesters brave intimidation amid Ottawa truckers protest

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Frustration grew downtown and in neighborhoods surrounding downtown.

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Amid noise and crowds downtown, small groups of counter-protesters braved intimidation and harassment on Wednesday to express their frustration at protesters who continue to paralyze and disrupt the heart of the city.

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Three people wearing masks stood amid the noise on Wellington Street, in front of heavy trucks whose drivers kept honking their horns. One, a tall man in a blue surgical mask, held a sign that read “we will not be held hostage in our own town”.

“A lot of people in my community here downtown are hurting and struggling and honestly I just don’t see the reasoning behind protesting for freedom and depriving the whole community of freedom,” said the man, who has refused to give his name because he fears exposing himself to further repercussions. “We are overwhelmed. It is an incursion. We don’t have the capacity to live our lives and workers, businesses and residents are suffering. »

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Frustration grew downtown and in neighborhoods surrounding downtown. Reports have circulated describing the harassment of protesters and the general disorder, which has lasted since Friday, has sparked anger and impatience.

“I’m here because my friends and family don’t feel safe,” said another counter-protester who lives downtown. “My friends have been harassed for wearing masks outside. My sister can’t go to work because she’s stuck. I just think it’s very sad because we’ve all suffered through the pandemic together and now they’re throwing it in our face and it makes me frustrated.

Elizabeth Hay, who stood in solidarity with the counter-protesters, said she was fed up with the protests and the chaos they were causing in the neighborhood.

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“They harass us,” she said. “My husband is at Bruyère hospital and trying to get there is a nightmare and the staff can’t get to work because these people are partying, having barbecues, destroying the neighbourhood. I’m just incredibly angry and I want them to go away.

Elizabeth Hay and two counter-protesters who asked not to be named.
Elizabeth Hay and two counter-protesters who asked not to be named. Photo by Matthieu Lapierre /POSTMEDIA

The hum of a truck horn directly behind the counter-protesters seemed to have no effect on them. They were looking straight ahead.

“We are not engaging,” said the counter-protester holding the sign. “I have headphones. I’m just listening to punk rock in my headphones and looking away. I don’t submit to bullying and I won’t be deterred by it because to me that’s not a valid way to express yourself in a democracy.

“A lot of people are really nice, I have to say,” he added, “but there are also a lot of people who try to bully, try to threaten me to leave, try to put me in front of me and, ironically, cover my sign, which I think was the whole point of free speech and being able to express yourself.

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Further west along Wellington Street, Carleton students Jacob Braun and Simon Xarchos stood with a sign that read “Do you want to end the lockdowns? Get vaxxed. The other side of the sign read “Go home, shits.”

A steady stream of protesters approached them to discuss vaccine effectiveness or insult them. Some brought up 9/11 conspiracy theories, one man denied the existence of gravity and another said “do you seriously believe the earth revolves around the sun?”

“Someone has to come here and raise their voice,” Xarchos said, “because I’ve run over truckers, I’ve been yelling at them all week, but I’m just sick of it and maybe I am a punishment glutton because people came up to me and started talking to me all day, no violence but lots of bullshit.

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Both Braun and Xarchos said they or people they knew were harassed by protesters. They were both in class on Tuesday and their classmates were all expressing their frustration at the protest that was rumbled through the city and decided to come downstairs to express their opposition.

“For the most part it has been civil,” Xarchos said of the speech with protesters. “But then I say that and look at the flags these guys are flying,” he said, pointing at the flags and using a swear word to point to the prime minister. “It’s been a real mixed bag.”

A man wearing a mask approached them and thanked them for having the courage to stand up to the protesters.

“It’s worth it,” Xarchos said. “People will come and say ‘thank you for that’ because they don’t want to get involved and, my God, who would? Someone stupid like me.

Braun added, “We might have less sense than the protesters.”

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