Convoy protesters shows no sign of leaving as 12th day begins

It is day 12 of the “Freedom Convoy” demonstration that has occupied Ottawa’s downtown core.

Police estimate close to 500 trucks remain parked through the so-called “red zone” of the protest and hundreds of the most committed demonstrators show no signs of leaving.

This, despite a recent poll showing nearly nine-in-10 Ottawans want the protest to pack up and leave, including more than two-fifths of people who support the convoy.

On Monday, Ottawa Police Chief Peter Sloly told CTV News protesters have been adapting their countermeasures to police enforcement, which is creating difficulty for officers in trying to enforce the law. He cited the example of refuelling. Police on Sunday said anyone attempting to bring fuel or other supplies into the core to keep the protest trucks powered could be subject to arrest, but the protesters responded by filling the jerry cans with water, sometimes drinking from them in front of police to show they were not bringing fuel, while still managing to bring some fuel into the core to refill the trucks.

Sloly alleged that officers were swarmed at one point Monday afternoon when trying to stop someone with fuel, creating a “near-riot” situation. Deputy Police Chief Steve Bell told reporters that an investigation is underway, an arrest was made, and charges would be laid.

The protest continues to impact businesses in the downtown core, with some telling CTV News that the past 10 or more days have been some of the worst for business since the pandemic began because customers are scared to come downtown out of fear of confrontation with demonstrators, amid reports of harassment and intimidation. The Rideau Centre mall, the Canadian History Museum, the Canadian Museum of Nature and the Canadian War Museum all say they will remain closed until further notice while the demonstration continues.

Protesters, meanwhile, continue to claim they are on their best behaviour, saying they have been picking up trash on the street. A court injunction was granted Monday to stop the constant honking of horns, a tactic Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson said was “tantamount to psychological torture.” Much of the honking came to an end Monday, though it remains unclear if or when it will resume. Police say they are reviewing the injunction to determine how and when it will be enforced.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke to the issue in the House of Commons Monday evening, saying the protests have to stop.

“People of Ottawa don’t deserve to be harassed in their own neighbourhoods, don’t deserve to be confronted with the inherent violence of a swastika flying on a street corner, or a confederate flag, or the insults and jeers just because they’re wearing a mask. That’s not who Canadians are,” the prime minister said.

Federal officials stressed they have no intention to end COVID-19 mandates at this time, and would not let an “angry crowd” sway policy.

“No matter how much a small minority may hold themselves above public health measures, they are not above the law,” a statement said.

The city of Ottawa remains under a state of emergency because of the ongoing demonstration and occupation.