Police in Canada’s capital called for reinforcements as a planned protest against the anti-vaccine mandate began to grow in number.
Several thousand people are expected in Ottawa as part of the group demanding an end to vaccination mandates and COVID-19 restrictions. Some of the group’s leaders are calling for a peaceful event, but statements by some associated with the group have included threats of violence.
Ottawa police are working with national security agencies to identify any potential threats to public safety, Chief Peter Sloly said during a news conference Friday.
“Even during the course of this conference call, we have received new intelligence regarding local threats,” he said.
A senior parliamentary security official has warned lawmakers to lock their doors amid reports their private homes may be attacked.
Trucks and cars began pouring into downtown Ottawa Friday at noon, as a planned protest against the anti-vaccine mandate grew. They took to the streets around Parliament Hill over the weekend, and possibly longer.
Trucks and cars lined the north side of the main street, past the Parliament buildings. Until now, the atmosphere has generally been party-like with some having sidewalk barbecues and many honking horns, playing instruments and blasting music.
In part, they are protesting a new rule that took effect Jan. 15 requiring truckers entering Canada to be fully immunized against the coronavirus. The United States has imposed the same requirement on truckers entering that country.
While the protest has been largely billed as against a new vaccination mandate for commercial truck drivers at the border, its origins go back long before that policy was conceived.
The memorandum of understanding promoted by the organizer asks Trudeau and all provincial governments to eliminate all restrictions and vaccine mandates due to COVID-19. The document does not mention truckers at all.
Robyn May, a business owner from Long Point, Ontario, was there with her husband wearing hockey jerseys and anti-Trudeau signs.
“We are not a free country,” May said, adding that government mandates forced her business to close at times during the pandemic.
Asked how long he thinks the protest will last, he said he plans to stay until “Justin Trudeau is no longer our prime minister.”
The police chief said there are concerns about “parallel demonstrations” as some with far-right, far-right and white supremacist views have joined the protest as the convoy crosses the country.
The Canadian government has ended the truckers’ exemption from the vaccination mandate, which means Canadian truckers must be fully vaccinated if they want to avoid a two-week quarantine and pre-arrival molecular test for COVID-19 before crossing to Canada.
Unvaccinated or partially vaccinated foreign truckers who do not qualify for re-entry are turned away at the border and directed back to the United States. The US now also requires Canadian truck drivers to provide proof of vaccination to enter that country.
The Canadian Trucking Alliance rejected the protest, saying that more than 85% of truckers are vaccinated.
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.