WARNING: This story contains content that may be offensive
Crowds are thinning on Parliament Hill, but a lingering cohort of protesters has vowed to stay the course as the trucker protest neared the end of a fourth day in Ottawa, despite condemnations, calls to go home, and arrests.
Although some members of the protest convoy arrived in the city on Friday, snarling downtown traffic, the main rally took place on the Hill Saturday and some protesters have remained in the area since.
Ottawa police announced Tuesday night that two people were arrested and charged in connection with incidents that took place at the demonstration over the weekend.
A 29-year-old Ottawa man was charged for allegedly causing mischief to property on Saturday. Police didn’t specify what the mischief entailed, but said they waited to make an arrest at the time in order to avoid “a larger confrontation.”
On Sunday, a 37-year-old Ottawa man was charged with carrying a weapon to a public meeting. No further details were given on what the weapon was.
Ottawa police said in a media release that they have 13 investigations underway and that they are making progress on the “desecration of the War Monument.”
Police also said that they are seeing a reduction in the demonstration. In the media release, they state “50 people on Parliament Hill and another 200 people are gathered nearby.”
Protesters have been bringing in fuel and supplies to those who are hunkered down in their vehicles Tuesday, while others have been seen playing street hockey throughout the day.
Buttons and badges that were offered for sale at the convoy Tuesday included those with “mask exemption” messaging, offensive imagery and other anti-mandate language.
Some child care centres remain closed in the downtown area, and at least one vaccine clinic has shut its doors due to the protest Tuesday, for the fifth day in a row.
Some residents in Ottawa have reported being challenged on wearing masks by protesters and being assaulted while walking in their neighbourhoods. Many businesses in the downtown core will remain closed in light of the protest.
CTV News app sign-up: Breaking news alerts and top stories delivered right to you
One protester seated near the Terry Fox statue — which he said other protesters placed flowers on in a gesture after the outcry on the weekend — told CTV News Tuesday in a livestream that he was there because of his beliefs in body autonomy and self-sovereignty, and that he believes the country has gone “a little too far with the liberalism.”
Decrying what he said was unfair, biased coverage from mainstream media of the “good people” who were part of the convoy, the protester, who did not give his name, said “people just want the truth.”
Speaking to reporters prior to a cabinet meeting Tuesday, Transport Minister Omar Alghabra said the government will “continue to follow public health advice and…when doctors, experts tell us that things are getting better, we will adjust those measures,” in response to a question about when vaccine mandates for truckers might end.
Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry François-Philippe Champagne reiterated that it is time for the protesters to return home.
“They’ve been heard, now it’s time to give back downtown Ottawa to downtown residents…now let the people of Ottawa go back to a normal life,” Champagne told reporters.
In a statement issued Tuesday, the President of the Private Motor Truck Council of Canada (PMTC) Mike Millian also declared it was time for protesters to go home.
Recapping some of the incidents over the weekend, Millian said the PMTC was “very disturbed” by some of the images and reports out of Ottawa of monuments “desecrated” and symbols of hate being displayed.
“The majority of the trucking industry, and the vast majority of drivers, were not involved in this convoy in any way and continued to work to ensure our essential supplies were provided for,” the statement read, before thanking the drivers who were “protesting politely” and those who donated to the shelter Shepherds of Good Hope.
“The protesters that remain in Ottawa today however, it is time to pack up and leave. Your message has been heard. The people of Ottawa should be allowed to get back to their lives, which have been disrupted for three days now,” the statement said. “People need to get to work, take their kids to school, and open their businesses, the very thing some of the protesters claim to be fighting for.”
Addressing the blockade of land borders between Canada and the U.S., Millian said that while the PMTC does not support vaccine mandates for truck drivers, they “do not support the actions that have been taken in recent days to try and change them.”
“When you allow yourself to become part of something that gets out of hand, there is a price that comes with it.”
Read more: Feds dismiss suggestion they should ‘step in’ as trucker protest continues
Meanwhile, Ottawa Police denied allegations of officers bringing supplies to protesters on Saturday made in a video posted on social media.
“Police are not providing food, fuel or any other supplies to demonstrators,” the police said in a tweet. “There is a video circulating that shows officers bringing in boxes of food and supplies to other officers working at the demonstration.”
Hotels in the area are bracing for the protesters to potentially reconvene next weekend, after hotel staff had to “call the police all the time” about violence and vandalism when dealing with the first wave of protesters, according to Steve Ball, President of the Ottawa-Gatineau Hotel Association.
“On Friday during check-in and throughout there were some real issues around the masking policies, and of course the protesters are here to protest mandates and the hotels are here to serve the public and follow guidelines, so there was quite a bit of conflict on Friday,” Ball said on CTV News Channel Tuesday, adding that things settled down as the weekend went on.
When asked about hotels no longer taking reservations, Ball said the issue is “mixing cohorts of guests” — tourists who are following guidelines and protesters who are “there to make a point.”
“There’s conflicts in the lobbies, there’s conflicts in the elevators, so we’re just trying to manage that as best we can,” he said.
Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson said on CTV’s Your Morning Tuesday that the trucker protest is “something that we’ve never seen before.”
“Police are doing what they can to make the situation the best they can, a lot of people are frustrated and just want the trucks towed away,” he said. “The bottom line is the last thing you want to do is, when you see a fire, is pour gasoline.”
Watson said that residents are nevertheless fed up and that he is calling on the trucker convoy organizers to tell protesters to go home.
“The reality is, they’ve had their attention, they’ve had their 15 minutes in the spotlight,” he said. “Let us have our city back.”
When asked about criticism aimed at the Ottawa police force for their gentle, more “hands off” approach to this protest compared to others that have taken place, Watson said the police were making sure there isn’t a “flare up” of violence.
“They have to de-escalate the situation before moving in,” he said, adding that the police and the city have a “number of plans” for the protest.
But some Ottawa organizations are calling for immediate action to end the protest, citing intimidating and harassment.
The Ottawa Coalition to End Violence Against Women (OCTEVAW) issued a statement Sunday, demanding city leadership take “concrete action to end violence downtown.”
“Make no mistake, the hate mob occupying the downtown core is violent. As a coalition representing community-based organizations dedicated to ending violence against women and gender-based violence, the hateful messaging, intimidation, and racism currently taking place in our streets is what our member agencies address daily,” the statement reads. “We have heard of accounts of young women being followed, almost run over, and threatened with rape. It comes as no surprise that those embracing racist, homophobic, and transphobic values also openly demonstrate their hatred towards women.”
OCTEVAW said in its statement it stands in solidarity with “organizers in our community in denouncing the hate fuelled mob, and the City’s lack of intervention.”
In a news conference on Monday afternoon, Ottawa Police Service Chief Peter Sloly said that the demonstration resulted in no reported injuries, deaths or riots.
Sloly said that “tens of thousands” of protesters and “thousands of heavy trucks” had gathered over the past few days, but that the crowd had significantly “scaled down” from the weekend.
“I’ll repeat again the scale of these operations are significant. The number of people is not out of the ordinary for large demonstrations in big cities, particularly the nation’s capital, but the extra presence of the large number of vehicles and heavy vehicles, the level of funding and overall support and organization in and around the core demonstrations, is significant and unprecedented,” he said.
In a question-and-answer session after the news conference, Sloly clarified his estimate on the numbers of protesters, with the caveat that all information was fluid and constantly changing.
“I have heard numbers as high as 18,000 and as low as 5,000,” Sloly said. “Saturday was definitely the largest amount of trucks and demonstrators over a 24-hour period.”
Sloly said that police in Ottawa are in negotiations with the organizers to bring the protest to an end and that “all options are on the table” to end the demonstration, including using force.
The Ottawa Paramedic Service confirmed to CTV News Monday that a rock was thrown at one of their trucks Sunday and that a racial slur was yelled targeting the paramedic in that vehicle.
There were at least two other incidents of projectiles thrown at paramedic vehicles, and the service had issues responding to calls in the downtown core where protesters were either slowing them down or intimidating paramedics, mostly on Saturday, a spokesperson said.
The spokesperson said the police will now be responding “at all times” with the paramedics for safety.
Monday brought fiery remarks from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who said at a press conference he would not meet with any of the truckers and said, in the past few days, “Canadians were shocked and frankly, disgusted by the behaviour displayed by some people protesting in our nation’s capital.”
READ MORE: ‘We are not intimidated,’ PM says as MPs return to the Hill despite protest
“I want to be very clear, we are not intimidated by those who hurl insults and abuse at small business workers, and steal food from the homeless,” Trudeau said. “We won’t give in to those who fly racist flags. We won’t cave to those who engage in vandalism or dishonour the memory of our veterans.”
An earlier version of this story reported that some schools were closed, it has been corrected to show that some child care centres are closed