Freedom Convoy 2022 live updates: Downtown Ottawa jammed full, police called in help

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Freedom Convoy 2022 live updates: Downtown Ottawa jammed full, police called in help

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Crowds are packing Parliament Hill today to protest the federal Liberal government, vaccine mandates and COVID-19 restrictions Publishing date:

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Crowds are packing Parliament Hill today to protest the federal Liberal government, vaccine mandates and COVID-19 restrictions

Publishing date:

Jan 29, 2022  •  4 hours ago  •  12 minute read  •  4377 Comments

Big rigs and their supporters descend on Parliament Hill on January 29, 2022.
Big rigs and their supporters descend on Parliament Hill on January 29, 2022. Photo by LARS HAGBERG/AFP via Getty Images

The day has dawned clear and cold in Ottawa, with wind chill at -35C. Welcome to Canada in January and welcome to the National Post’s live blog on the Freedom Convoy 2022 demonstration in the nation’s capital today. Here’s what we know so far …

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  • General Wayne Eyre ‘sickened’ by people drinking at National War Memorial
  • Condemnation for whomever ‘touched’ the Terry Fox statue
  • Downtown Ottawa is jammed tight with traffic … and still the trucks come
  • Rideau Centre overwhelmed by unmasked protesters — and closed
  • Saskatchewan premier Scott Moe says unvaccinated truckers are no greater risk than vaccinated ones
  • Maxime Bernier is looking for Erin O’Toole: ‘You must be with the people’
  • CBC says Justin Trudeau has been relocated from Rideau Cottage for his safety

5 p.m.

No facilities, no problem

Demonstrators climb a loaded logging truck on the street in front of the National War Memorial, Saturday, January 29, 2021.
Demonstrators climb a loaded logging truck on the street in front of the National War Memorial, Saturday, January 29, 2021. Photo by Anja Karadeglija / Postmedia News

By late afternoon, the crowd in front of Parliament’s main gate grew so compact, it was hard to move, reports the Post’s Anja Karadeglija from Parliament Hill. Maskless protesters seemed unfazed by the close proximity. People milled about and took selfies in front of Centre Block; one man planted a Quebec flag, made a lounger out of snow …and enjoyed his beverage.

The demonstrations stretched down Wellington Street and toward, but not fully into Byward Market. On the street in front of the National War Memorial, protestors climbed atop a loaded logging truck, and other danced on the memorial — prompting Canada’s chief of defence staff to

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By sunset on Saturday, the Freedom Convoy 2022 demonstration began to thin out on Parliament Hill with trash cans mostly filled with empty beer cans.
By sunset on Saturday, the Freedom Convoy 2022 demonstration began to thin out on Parliament Hill with trash cans mostly filled with empty beer cans. Photo by Catherine Lévesque / POSTMEDIA NEWS

5:36 p.m.

‘Hang their heads in shame’

Canada’s chief of defence staff, General Wayne Eyre, says he’s “sickened” by people drinking and dancing at the National War Memorial.

“Those involved should hang their heads in shame,” Eyre said.

User Steven Thornton posted the video of the protesters at the site, saying the dancing began after he told them about the importance of the memorial.

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4 p.m.

‘Don’t touch his statue’

A statue of Terry Fox is altered with a Canadian flag, protest sign and cap during a protest against vaccine mandates on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Saturday, Jan. 29, 2022
A statue of Terry Fox is altered with a Canadian flag, protest sign and cap during a protest against vaccine mandates on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Saturday, Jan. 29, 2022 Photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

The mayor of Terry Fox’s hometown is speaking out against what he calls the “appropriation” of the Canadian athlete’s legacy during the anti-vaccine mandate rally in Ottawa. The Terry Fox Memorial Sculpture, a bronze statue of the cancer research activist near Parliament Hill, was used to hold a protest placard with the words “Mandate Freedom.”

A Canadian flag was also fastened like a cape around the statue’s neck, while a pole with an upside down flag was placed near one of the hands, giving the appearance of Fox’s statue waving the inverted flag.

“Whatever your cause, you dont get to appropriate his legacy and you don’t touch his statue. Ever,” said Port Coquitlam Mayor Brad West.

West says in a tweet that the poster and flags should be removed immediately, prompting Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson to reply that he has asked city staff to do just that.

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3:04 p.m.

Rideau Centre overwhelmed

Ottawa Police are helping Rideau Centre management and security close the downtown shopping mall “due to the overcrowding” by unmasked protestors. The Post’s Anja Karadeglija witnessed that most of the stores were closed Saturday mid-afternoon, but the food court was filled with hungry protesters. Just before 3 p.m., security guards began trying to usher people outside.

“Protesters without masks were entering my store all day expecting a fight,” said one user on a Reddit thread . “When they didn’t get one they walked right out.”

Some protest supporters urged mall staff to take off their own masks, the Ottawa Citizen reported . “You’re free now,” one maskless man told a worker at a booth. “You don’t have to wear that.”

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Many of the protesters sat on the floor and waited in line for the bathroom. Masks are required indoors in public settings and businesses in Ontario. Indoor dining will only resume in restaurants starting Jan. 31 at 50 per cent capacity and for people showing proof of vaccination.

2:45 p.m.

The core is full

Ottawa police say the city’s downtown core has no more room for vehicles, other than first responders, and shut it down due to gridlock shortly after 2 p.m.

Police say vehicles are being redirected away from the core even as more trucks are trying to make their way downtown to the truckers protest on Parliament Hill.

Ontario Provincial Police, who are responsible for Hwy. 417, the main east-west artery through Ottawa, are telling drivers to avoid the westbound lanes because of traffic backlogs linked to the demonstration.

The sheer size of the protest led local police to ask for backup from nearby forces.

Ottawa police say they have been reinforced by officers from forces in Ontario including Toronto, Durham Region and London, as well as officers from the OPP and RCMP.

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2:40 p.m.

Glares for the masked

There’s few places to eat today in downtown Ottawa.
There’s few places to eat today in downtown Ottawa.

Protesters are hard pressed to find places to eat because all indoor dining in restaurants has been shutdown for weeks in Ontario. But they’re also encountering a lot of locked doors at fast food and takeout eateries— whose operators opted to shut down in the face of a mass demonstration. The MacDonald’s closest to Parliament Hill is open but refusing to let clients in and is instead bringing orders to the door.

The province-wide mask mandate might as well not exist in the establishments letting visitors enter to order. All staff were masked, but nary a face covering could be found in sight amongst clients in multiple takeout restaurants around Parliament. Anyone who walked in with a face covering, reports the Post’s Chris Nardi, was promptly greeted by glares from unmasked protestors.

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2 p.m.

Oh, hay there

By early afternoon, on the eastern side of Wellington Street, the protest stretched to Libraries and Archives Canada, where “Freedom 2022” was spray painted on bales of hay. One group set up a free food stand cooking up pancakes, others were BBQing hot dogs, and a group flying the Serbian flag roasted a small pig.

Firecrackers were intermittently set off. Small groups of people, the vast majority unmasked, waved Canadian and Quebec flags and walked cheering – some brought their small children and others their dogs.

A stand outside the Supreme Court sold purple People’s Party of Canada gear.

1:25 p.m.

‘An unvaccinated trucker does not pose any greater risk of transmission than a vaccinated trucker’

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Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe is showing his support for truckers who want an end to vaccination requirements for those crossing the border with the United States.

In a statement posted to Twitter, Moe says the current federal border policy for truckers makes no sense:”An unvaccinated trucker does not pose any greater risk of transmission than a vaccinated trucker,” Moe wrote.

He goes on to say that he believes the policy poses a risk to the economy and Saskatchewan’s supply chain that will increase the cost of living.

He says he supports an end to “the cross-border ban on unvaccinated truckers.”

1:15 p.m.

Bernier: Where is Erin O’Toole?

People’s Party of Canada Maxime Bernier was cozying up to supporters, some of which were wearing PPC caps or toques, during the protest on Parliament Hill on Saturday afternoon.

In an interview with the Post’s Catherine Lévesque, Bernier criticized Conservative Party of Canada leader Erin O’Toole for not showing up.

“He’s not a leader! He’s afraid of people. If you want to fight for real Conservative values, you must be with the people”, he said.

On Friday, O’Toole tweeted photographs of him meeting with truckers driving to Ottawa. “I support their right to be heard, and I call on Justin Trudeau to meet with these hard-working Canadians to hear their concerns. Please protest safely this weekend”, he wrote.

The prime minister is in isolation somewhere today in the Capital Region — CBC reported the family has been relocated from Rideau Cottage — after one of his children was infected by COVID.

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1:10 p.m.

‘We are the fringe minority’

The crowd on the lawn in front of Centre Block has swelled in size since earlier this morning with, um, all kinds of protesters. Temps are forecast at —35C today in Ottawa.
The crowd on the lawn in front of Centre Block has swelled in size since earlier this morning with, um, all kinds of protesters. Temps are forecast at —35C today in Ottawa. Photo by Catherine Lévesque / POSTMEDIA NEWS

The crowd on the lawn in front of the Centre Block has swelled in size since earlier this morning, with people mostly shoulder to shoulder as movement slows. Sidewalks in front of Parliament Hill are jammed.

Several signs also say, “We are the fringe minority,” playing on comments Trudeau made a few days ago that disparaged some in the convoy crowd.

Some people are standing on the fence ringing Parliament Hill, which is awash in cold air and the unmistakable smell of marijuana.

Many have Canadian flags or those with an expletive aimed at Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

1:00 p.m.

Reality cheque

In the three months leading up to the 2021 election (between July and Sept.) Liberals say more than 57,100 contributors dished out $7.65 million, marking a record for the party. As of 1 p.m., a GoFundMe fund set up for the truckers on Jan. 14 surpassed this figure, raising $8 million.

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12:50 p.m.

The Hill cam view

A live image of the Centre Block and Peace Tower on Parliament Hill.
A live image of the Centre Block and Peace Tower on Parliament Hill. Photo by the hill cam

A live image taken from the Peace Tower early Saturday afternoon shows hundreds of demonstrators gathered on the parliamentary grounds. Hill cam footage provided by Public Services and Procurement Canada shows an up-to-date view of the scale of the turnout.

Noon

Maxime Bernier is here

Shortly after noon, People’s Party of Canada leader Maxime Bernier arrived on Parliament Hill. The horns have intensified and  Wellington Street in front of Parliament has became increasingly crowded — and louder. Many demonstrators are carrying Canadian flags, in a scene reminiscent of the annual Canada Day celebrations in front of Parliament annually. But the mood is very different. Signs and banners reading “f*ck Trudeau” are a common sight, a sentiment also chanted by small groups of protestors.

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11 a.m.

And, it begins …

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The sounds of honking horns are echoing around Ottawa’s downtown core.

About 100 vehicles are idling around the National War Memorial in downtown Ottawa, with more trucks and personal vehicles packed on Wellington Street stretching west past Parliament Hill.

Hundreds of demonstrators are marching up and down Wellington Street, which runs right in front of Parliament Hill and the Prime Minister’s Office.

The national flag is flying from some vehicles, or draped around the shoulders of some protestors, many of whom appear to be unmasked.

Some are carrying copies of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The event is peaceful and Ottawa police say there are no incidents to report.

In a tweet, the force also says that police resources are in place and will remain downtown until crowds disperse.

Officers are keeping emergency lanes open and plan to continue to tow vehicles obstructing those lanes and any other places police need to keep clear for public safety.

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10:38 a.m.

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10:30 a.m.

Cancelled: Vigil tonight for Quebec City mosque shooting

After threats, organizers have cancelled a planned in-person vigil in Ottawa to mark the fifth anniversary of the Quebec City mosque shooting that left six men dead and five others seriously wounded. A lone gunman shot and killed six worshippers shortly after the end of evening prayers on Jan. 29, 2017.

Canadians United Against Hate had organized an inter-faith candlelight vigil for tonight at a human rights monument by Ottawa City Hall, a few blocks south of Parliament Hill. The group now says it will be holding a virtual vigil because of the truckers’ protest in downtown Ottawa and threats of violence emanating from some attendees.

10:10 a.m.

More vehicles headed for Ottawa, says truck stop owner

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Thousands more vehicles were set to arrive in Ottawa on Saturday, the Ottawa Citizen reports , according to those who have seen the convoys parked outside the city which were poised to enter.

Tom Orr, the owner of the Antrim truck stop in Arnprior, said his lot was full with at least 120 heavy trucks and 200 or so other vehicles — and he had to turn many away.

Just after 9 a.m., Orr said people were just waking up after spending the night in their truck or vehicle. The convoy was leaving for Ottawa at 11 a.m. and should begin to arrive around noon.

“There’ll be two or three thousand I think,” Orr said of the convoys set to arrive on Saturday.

Where would they go, seeing that the roads around Parliament were already jammed?

10:00 a.m.

Demonstrators arriving on Parliament Hill

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Hundreds of demonstrators have begun on Saturday morning to converge on Parliament Hill. But, first, coffee …
Hundreds of demonstrators have begun on Saturday morning to converge on Parliament Hill. But, first, coffee … Photo by Catherine Lévesque / POSTMEDIA NEWS

Hundreds of demonstrators are filtering on to Parliament Hill this morning ahead of a planned protest of COVID-19 restrictions and the Liberal government’s pandemic policies, Canadian Press reports.

Many are standing along the snow-covered lawn of Parliament Hill near the centennial flame despite the frigid air hanging over the national capital.

Ottawa police aren’t reporting any issues related to the event as people slowly roll in to the downtown core and join trucks parked along Wellington Street in front of the parliamentary buildings.

Hundreds more vehicles from Western Canada, Quebec and the Atlantic provinces are expected to arrive in the next few hours to join those already in Ottawa.

The Parliamentary Protective Service expects as many as 10,000 protesters to be in attendance today.

Départ ce matin 6h30 d’un autobus scolaire acheté par un groupe pour aller manifester à Ottawa (3h de route) depuis le village de St-Jean-de-Matha (Québec). Ils partaient rejoindre le FREEDOM CONVOY 2022. pic.twitter.com/SFk2NTzMEy

— Aelle (@AelleAlix) January 29, 2022

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9:42 a.m.

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9:30 a.m.

Report: Trudeau relocated

Justin Trudeau was still in the National Capital region Saturday but officials wouldn’t comment on a CBC report that he and his family had left Rideau Cottage for security reasons. Trudeau’s itinerary for today is more vague than usual. It simply lists his location as the National Capital Region, which includes Gatineau. Trudeau went into isolation after being exposed to COVID from one of his children but since tested negative.

Ann-Clara Vaillancourt, from the Prime Minister’s office, said, ‘The Prime Minister is continuing to isolate in the National Capital Region & work remotely. We’ve consulted Ottawa Public Health on appropriate protocols. As always, we do not comment on security matters.’

BREAKING: CBC reports the Prime Minister has been relocated from Rideau Cottage due to security concerns. The Prime Minister’s Office will not confirm but says he is isolating and working remotely in the National Capital Region #cdnpoli pic.twitter.com/aM74CTDGia

— Cormac Mac Sweeney (@cmaconthehill) January 29, 2022

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9:16 a.m.

Montreal Liberal MP Anthony Housefather said he worries the truckers convoy could turn into something similar to the January 6 “insurrection” or the Charlottesville riot.

On January 6 last year, a mob of Donald Trump supporters rioted and stormed the Capitol Building in Washington.

In August 2017, a “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, attended by neo-Nazis and white nationalists, turned violent with clashes between demonstrators and counter-protesters.

It then turned deadly when a 20-year-old man accelerated his car into a crowd of counter-protesters, killing one and injuring 35.

Housefather tweeted on Friday, “Watching what is happening today I am not sure if I am more worried that this will be similar to Charlottesville or the January 6 insurrection. Either way, it is something I hoped never to see on this side of the border.”

For anyone confused about the Confederate flag and thinking it may be confused well meaning people driving with it through our national capital please see the @ADL list of hate symbols used by far right white nationalist groups.https://t.co/y0KLSvRWg9

— Anthony Housefather (@AHousefather) January 28, 2022

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9:07 a.m.

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Overnight Friday

A man walks with a flare in hand on Friday, Jan. 28, 2022, between rows of trucks parked on Wellington St. in front of Parliament Hill ahead of a demonstration in Ottawa.
A man walks with a flare in hand on Friday, Jan. 28, 2022, between rows of trucks parked on Wellington St. in front of Parliament Hill ahead of a demonstration in Ottawa. Photo by David Kawai/Bloomberg

Ottawa Police say everyone behaved

Honking and cheering continued throughout the late evening, and fireworks blazed downtown, but no unlawful behavior was detected by the Ottawa Police overnight into  Saturday.

“I can tell you that there were no arrests and there’s nothing further that we can share at this time. There were no incidents to report”, said Constable Paramjit Singh, from the Ottawa Police Service Media Relations department on Saturday at about 9 a.m.

More truck convoys are expecting to arrive today from East and West. Ottawa Police expect approximately 2,000 vehicles and 5,000 pedestrians in Ottawa today.

A drone view shows trucks and protestors lined up on Wellington St. outside Parliament Hill on Jan. 28, 2020.
A drone view shows trucks and protestors lined up on Wellington St. outside Parliament Hill on Jan. 28, 2020. Photo by The 4K Guy /Youtube

With files from The Canadian Press

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