Ottawa police are focusing on moving protesters out of the city’s downtown area a day after thousands of truckers and tens of thousands of demonstrators marched through the city demanding an end to vaccine mandates.
The “Freedom Convoy” made up of hundreds of vehicles and reportedly 45 miles long at one point rolled into Ottawa on Saturday as truck drivers in Canada protested the country’s vaccine mandate. The protest has now entered its second day in Canada’s capital, with many of the protesters continuing to demonstrate against vaccine mandates and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
The Ottawa police announced on Sunday that its focus would now shift to pushing protesters out of the downtown area as the city attempts to return to normal after the influx of people.
“This afternoon, a large presence of police continues throughout the downtown core and the movement of protestors and trucks continues to be managed,” the police said in a statement. The statement continued:
Police and City staff are very aware of the complaints relating to parking, idling, noisemaking and other inappropriate behaviour. At this time, due to safety concerns, management of the protest and traffic must take precedence.
However, these matters are being responded to as soon as resources become available. Police continue to respond to calls for service throughout the city.
Throughout the remainder of the day and into the evening, focus will shift to implementation of egress and traffic approaches that move crowds and vehicles out of the downtown core. This will require a significant number of police and city resources.
On Friday, the day before the rally, Trudeau dismissed the “Freedom Convoy” as a “fringe minority” that does not represent the views of Canadians.
“We know the way through this pandemic is by getting everyone vaccinated and the overwhelming majority, close to 90% of Canadians, have done exactly that,” Trudeau said. “The small, fringe minority of people who are on their way to Ottawa who are holding unacceptable views that they’re expressing do not represent the views of Canadians who have been there for each other, who know that following the science, stepping up to protect each other is the best way to continue to ensure our freedoms, our rights, our values as a country.”
Supporters of the convoy have used those words against the prime minister, repeating them to motivate crowds of protesters to show up and demonstrate. Rebel News publisher Ezra Levant, a vocal critic of Trudeau, repeated the prime minister’s phrase during a speech Saturday at the rally.
“I want to tell you what excites me the most about this crowd,” Levant said. “I see a lot of cameras, a lot of independent journalists. Because when people say what do we do about the media, I say, you become the media, that’s what you do. … The news media acts like a party: the media party. It’s a subsidiary of the Liberal party. So, you’ve got to tell the story yourselves. Everyone who is here, everyone who is along the road, has to bear witness and testify to what they saw, because there’s two different, competing narratives.”
“I’ve never seen a more diverse group of Canadians,” he continued. “And far from violence, people want to not be violated anymore. Justin Trudeau says you’re extreme, but he’s the one who has violated our civil rights. He thinks we’re a ‘fringe,’ but that’s a pretty bloody big fringe.”