News

Counter protest to take to the streets this weekend


Article content

Ottawa police are preparing for up to 1,000 counter-demonstrators to take to the streets Saturday as frustrated, weary residents of the city begin to fight protest with protest.

Advertisement

Article content

Police officials, already facing an estimated influx of 300 to 400 trucks and thousands of protestors opposed to vaccine mandates, asked counter-protesters Friday to stay home.

“We would like not to have that other dynamic we have to manage within the crowd,” Deputy Chief Steve Bell said.

A counter-protest is scheduled to begin at Ottawa City Hall at 2 p.m. Saturday, raising the possibility of a clash with nearby protestors who have been occupying downtown Ottawa for a week.

Organizer Mackenzie Demers described the event as an anti-hate protest designed to show Ottawa residents do not accept “the terrorists occupying our city centre.”

“People are afraid, our downtown workers are afraid to go to work, the police are afraid to act, the city has denied me an official protest permit citing COVID concerns. I am not afraid,” Demers, 25, vowed on social media.

Advertisement

Article content

In an interview Friday evening, Demers said some groups have decided to pull out of the counter-protest because of security concerns. But he said the event will proceed as planned. Anywhere from a few hundred to a few thousand people could show up Saturday, he said.

“We’ll be far enough away from the occupiers that I think it won’t be as dangerous as others are claiming,” he said. “We’re trying to send a message that there has been no action from the city, that there has been not enough action from the police.”

Counter-protest organizers have told participants to use a buddy system and to bring first-aid kits since they have no way of guaranteeing safety for those who attend. Medics and legal counsel will also be available, Demers said.

Advertisement

Article content

NDP MP Joel Harden urged Ottawa residents Friday not to join the counter-protest. “No serious preparation for safety has been made, and this is a volatile situation,” Harden warned.

The Ottawa Peace Council also called it a bad idea. “A counter-protest this weekend wouldn’t achieve its intended effect, and would be adventurism,” the peace council said on Twitter, adding that people should instead offer material support and relief to those besieged in downtown neighbourhoods.

One counter-protester was on Wellington Street Friday, walking amongst the phalanx of trucks and self-proclaimed freedom fighters with a white placard, which read: “Ask me what it’s like to have Stage 3 cancer during a pandemic.”

She marched in front of a makeshift stage on Wellington Street where truckers had gathered, and was left alone.

Advertisement

Article content

A Gatineau teacher, who has gone through treatment for stage 3 cancer during the pandemic, launched her own counter protest against the truckers’ occupation Friday, saying she was fed up with their selfishness. Full-scale counter protests are expected by police this weekend.
A Gatineau teacher, who has gone through treatment for stage 3 cancer during the pandemic, launched her own counter protest against the truckers’ occupation Friday, saying she was fed up with their selfishness. Full-scale counter protests are expected by police this weekend. Photo by Andrew Duffy /Postmedia

The woman carrying the sign was a 44-year-old Gatineau special needs teacher. “It has been just awful,” she said of her experience with cancer during the pandemic.

The woman, who asked not to be named for fear of being targeted on social media, said she decided to mount her personal counter-protest because of a deep sense of frustration.

“I just think that it’s selfish at this point what’s going on in the protest: We’re all suffering; we’re all at a breaking point.”

She flatly rejected the idea that the truckers were there to fight for freedom. “Freedom is about responsibility,” she said, “including responsibility to your fellow citizens.”

Early in the pandemic, the teacher was diagnosed with cancer; it later spread to surrounding tissues. She has undergone 12 courses of chemotherapy and radiation, and is now in remission.

Advertisement

Article content

The truckers have made their point, she said, “and now, I think, it’s time to go home.”

A few members of Ottawa city council, some community members and a lot of media walk down Bank Street in Ottawa Friday in a show of support for area residents.
A few members of Ottawa city council, some community members and a lot of media walk down Bank Street in Ottawa Friday in a show of support for area residents. Photo by Tony Caldwell /Postmedia

Ottawa residents also began to take security into their own hands Friday. One condominium building in heart of Centretown has hired private security for the foreseeable future. Meanwhile, Ottawa city councillors Catherine McKenney, Shawn Menard and Jeff Leiper led a community safety walk through Centretown Friday — an initiative they say will continue through the weekend.

“This is about supporting Centretown neighbours who have been feeling so vulnerable,” said Leiper.

“We are not looking to confront, we are not looking to change minds,” he said. “We just want to ensure that neighbours are helping neighbours, and make sure people feel safe going about their daily business.”

Advertisement

Article content

Earlier Friday, Ottawa Police Chief Peter Sloly announced 150 officers would be patrolling Centretown and other downtown neighbourhoods to address residents’ concerns about safety, and to crack down on lawlessness.

Centretown resident David Pearson is part of a community initiative to pair people with walking buddies if they feel unsafe.

People in Centretown have complained of being harassed, being told to take off their masks, and having people in vehicles marked with slogans shout, “You are either with us, or f— you.”

Pearson said adding more police will not fix the problem. “The trucks are still there. They are still honking. People are still afraid to go out. Until the direct problem is removed, you can have as many police on the streets as you want, but it is still going to keep going,” Pearson said, adding: “I don’t want some kind of violent resistance. I just want to see the trucks removed.”

During a stop at the Centretown Community Health Centre, which has kept its doors closed since the protests began, Coun. McKenney comforted a woman in a wheelchair who was in tears and complaining, “I can’t take it anymore.”

The woman told McKenney she has been yelled at by protesters, but couldn’t leave her neighbourhood because she has a cat at home.

“This is one example, but it is happening everywhere,” said McKenney.

Advertisement

Article content

Advertisement

Comments

Postmedia is committed to maintaining a lively but civil forum for discussion and encourage all readers to share their views on our articles. Comments may take up to an hour for moderation before appearing on the site. We ask you to keep your comments relevant and respectful. We have enabled email notifications—you will now receive an email if you receive a reply to your comment, there is an update to a comment thread you follow or if a user you follow comments. Visit our Community Guidelines for more information and details on how to adjust your email settings.



Source link

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

close