Hundreds of truckers drove their giant rigs into the Canadian capital Ottawa to protest against Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Covid-19 vaccine mandates required to cross the United States border.
The so-called “Freedom Convoy” from east and west started out as a rally against a vaccine requirement for cross-border truckers, but has turned into a demonstration against government overreach during the pandemic with a strong anti-vaccination streak.
More than two hours before the protest was officially to start on Saturday, the streets of Ottawa’s city centre were packed with trucks as the blaring, non-stop honking of dozens of air horns filled the air, AFP reported.
“I want it all to stop, these measures are unjustified,” said one protester, 31-year-old businessman Philippe Castonguay, outside the parliament building.
Few wore masks, but many were in balaclavas as the temperature with wind-chill was minus 21 degrees Celsius. By the end of the day, some 2,700 trucks are expected, a federal government source said.
The violent rhetoric used by some of the promoters on social media in the run-up to the protest has worried police, who were out in force.
“We are prepared as best as we possibly can for those who chose to come here to do harm or cause others to do harm,” Ottawa police chief Peter Sloly said on Friday, adding the demonstration would be “massive in scale”.
Trudeau and his family have left the home where they live in downtown Ottawa due to security concerns, CBC reported.
On Friday, Trudeau told the Canadian Press he was worried about possible violence connected with the demonstration. Earlier this week he said the convoy represented a “small fringe minority” who do not represent the views of Canadians.
About 90 percent of Canada’s cross-border truckers and 77 percent of the population have had two Covid vaccination shots.
The protest movement received an endorsement on Thursday from Tesla and SpaceX founder Elon Musk, who tweeted, “Canadian truckers rule.”