BBC News: OTTAWA, By Jessica Murphy – For city blocks, in the centre of the national capital, massive trucks are parked, many decorated with signs calling for an end to vaccine mandates – or simply “Freedom”.
Up to 500 such trucks are estimated to be in Ottawa’s downtown right now and many have been there for going on 12 days.
There are the sounds of running engines, small clusters of protesters chatting on a weekday morning – some gathered around makeshift fire pits to keep out the winter chill – and the occasional deep honk of a big rig horn.
The fences in front of the parliament building are covered in hundreds of handwritten protest signs expressing support for their cause.
The protesters say that theirs is a cause all Canadians should applaud – but after nearly a fortnight of blaring horns and streets shut by blockaders and police, many residents of Ottawa see it differently.https://emp.bbc.com/emp/SMPj/2.44.11/iframe.htmlMedia caption,Truckers: ‘All we want is the right to choose’
“There’s been nothing but love, unity and peace out here,” said John Van Vleet, a protester whose three daughters were offering coffee to those up and about.
“There’s been no graffiti. There’s been no garbage. People are feeding people.”
A truck driver from the Niagara region of Ontario, near the US border, he’d been in the city since the start. “It’s important for me to come down here to fight for my freedoms,” he said.
“I don’t want to be told what to do, to get injections if I don’t want an injection, to wear a mask if I don’t want to wear a mask.”
Being asked to mask up, he said, is the government making people “cover up God’s image”.
Mr Van Vleet is frustrated that Ottawa police launched a “major public order operation” on Sunday against the demonstrators – it was “completely wrong”, he said.
In the city’s east end, there are more trucks and supplies, and even some outdoor saunas set up.
Police moved in at the weekend, seizing “thousands of litres” of fuel cans and propane that keep the trucks running.
From outside the protest ‘red zone’, nearby residents have said they’re at their wits’ end from the noise and disruption. On Monday, a judge ordered a 10-day injunction silencing the honks.
Nazim Khan is an Uber driver staging his own solo counter-protest opposing the Freedom Convoy outside the Ottawa courthouse, a few blocks away from the main hubbub.
He is incensed at pejoratives used on many protest signs disparaging Prime Minister Justin Trudeau – “If you can’t respect him, don’t disrespect him” – and angry at the protest’s impact on local businesses.
Some of them, including a major downtown shopping centre, have been closed for days. Public services have also been affected.
“This is not the way to protest,” he said. “You have the freedom to assemble. You do not have the freedom to bring the big trucks and annihilate the whole downtown area. This is capital of Canada, for God’s sake.”
A little further up the street was David, who would not give his last name, holding his own sign opposing the protests. That got some supportive honks and thumbs up from passers-by.
“They’ve done their protest and should have been sent home a long time ago,” he said.
He said he’s been yelled at by protesters, or bumped into and pushed, and they’ve tried to take his sign.
It was quieter on Monday, but the weekends, when thousands of protesters have flowed into the city come to join the core group, had been a “warzone”.
“It was ugly,” David said.
He’s also frustrated with police, who’ve faced questions over what some residents view as a weak response.
Police, who have ramped up ticketing and made a handful of arrests over the weekend are now “maybe doing something, but way too late,” he said.
Top Feature Photo: Some horns have been clocked at over 95 decibels