As an ongoing protest against COVID-19 public health measures continues through its third weekend, resistance from Ottawa residents appears to be growing.
The counter-protests began Saturday, with hundreds of protesters in Ottawa’s Glebe neighborhood, and continued Sunday morning as a group of people blocked a major intersection to prevent a number of vehicles from joining the main protest downtown.
The impromptu blockade began forming around 9 a.m. Sunday morning when about 20 residents entered the intersection of Bank Street and Riverside Drive.
The blockade increased to around 200 people by noon. Some carried signs saying “Go Home Truckers” and “Centretown Neighbors Deserve Better”.
Counter-protesters marched on Saturday
About 500 people gathered in Lansdowne Park, less than five kilometers from Parliament Hill, on Saturday to demonstrate against the hundreds of trucks and other vehicles that have occupied the city center since January 28.
The rally follows a smaller gathering near Ottawa City Hall last weekend.
“We had to do something to show that we are not happy with the way our city has been completely abandoned, by the police, by the city administration, by the province. It is shocking,” said the counter- protester Greg Morrow.
A longtime resident of Ottawa, Morrow said residents of the city are used to protests, but nothing like this.
“We’re used to the police doing something, and that to me is the most shocking thing of all,” he said, adding that responses from police forces in other cities – where protesters were barred from digging for a long stay – caused more frustration.
“It’s very difficult, to see … how simple it would have been to prevent all of this from happening,” Morrow said. “So in the future, I hope there will be a serious conversation about policing and how these things can never happen again.”
Another counter-protester, Ruva Gwekwerere, said she felt she had to do something.
“It’s really evident that our community no longer feels safe,” Gwekwerere said. “I’m here with a lot of different groups from a lot of very different aspects of life who are really saying, ‘That’s been enough’.”
Planned hunger strike
Two rallies actually joined forces on Saturday – one organized by residents, the other by unions unhappy with the government’s handling of pandemic support measures – and marched through the Glebe on Bank Street.
Counter-protester Nazim Khan came to Canada from Pakistan 23 years ago as a political refugee and said he promised not to eat until the protesters in the convoy left town.
He described how a group of Elgin Street protesters recently told him to “go back to your damn country”.
“I would rather die than see this anarchy in the capital of this great country.” Khan said, adding that he hadn’t eaten since Friday night.
“Canada gave me a new life, Canada embraced me and today they dishonor the same Canada that I came to make my new home.”
Police face ‘crushing’ situation
Ottawa police and by-law officers have now issued more than 2,600 tickets and made 26 arrests related to the entrenched protest against public health measures related to COVID-19.
In a news release on Saturday morning, the Ottawa Police Service also said its officers faced “aggressive” behavior from protesters who were “running down officers” and “rescuing enforcement efforts.” of the law”.
On Saturday evening, the force said it launched an “integrated command center” with its provincial and federal counterparts as 4,000 protesters descended on the nation’s capital during the day.
Protests continue to cause road closures and disruptions to downtown transit, City of Ottawa providing updates here.
Some vaccination clinics and COVID-19 testing centers have also been affected by the downtown occupation.
Due to anticipated traffic delays this weekend, some COVID testing sites in Ottawa will have revised hours on Sunday, February 13:
Brewer: 12:00 p.m. – 3:30 p.m.
CHEO Brewer: 12:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m.: 30 p.m.
McNabb: 12 p.m. – 7 p.m.
Patients with booked appointments have been notified.https://t.co/cWTuzgnxFh
Several municipal buildings, including Ottawa City Hall and branches of the Main and Rideau libraries, also remain closed.
Bronson camp cleared
A temporary protest camp set up in the parking lot of 1500 Bronson, near Carleton University, was evacuated overnight.
Somerset County Shawn Menard tweeted just before midnight Saturday that no vehicles, portable toilets or debris remained in the parking lot.
The land was vacant early Sunday morning.
Protest rolls into Cornwall
Hundreds of protesters also gathered Saturday in Cornwall, Ont., near the Seaway International Bridge, which connects eastern Ontario to upstate New York.
Protesters showed up on tractors and other vehicles, Cornwall Police say. Some told Radio-Canada that they came from as far away as the Ottawa region.
“We just want freedom back, that’s all we want. We’re all hard working people,” said Joseph Odermatt, one of the protesters.
“I have grandchildren. I don’t want my grandchildren to grow up like [this]. There’s no way. Like, we’re all adults here – when you’re sick, I stay away from you, and you do the same.”
As police warned that protests could disrupt traffic at the border crossing, on Saturday afternoon the bridge itself remained open.