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They met, they hugged, they united: Convoy supporters say they won’t give that up


“The point is we have a right to peaceably assemble. The reality is that a lot of people in Ottawa support this movement.”

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It’s not over yet.

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That was the message of about 100 demonstrators who gathered at the corner of Wellington Street and Booth Street on Saturday to continue their fight against COVID-19 vaccine requirements.

The demonstration was a pale shadow of raucous previous weekends on Wellington Street. Some motorists passing through the busy intersection beeped their horns in support. Other drivers delivered middle-finger salutes and profanities.

The protesters included a man with a Trump flag and a F— Trudeau flag and a woman in a rainbow dress with a pigeon on her shoulder and a sign offering free hugs. Some people held signs declaring “On the right side of history,” while others declared “Hugs not masks.”

One man, who declined to be named, said he was a “protector, not a protester.” He said he left New Brunswick with $25 and was still in Ottawa because of the generosity of strangers. His motorhome has been seized by police and it will take $1,100 for him to get it out of the impound yard. It’s almost a write-off, he said.

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Others spoke of lost jobs, children who had struggled during the pandemic, their trust in the divine and their belief that there was going to be a catastrophic economic reckoning at the hands of the global elite. What they had in common was that they felt a sense of acceptance in the movement.

A group of protesters gathered at the corner of Booth and Wellington to rally in support of those opposed to COVID-19 vaccine mandates.
A group of protesters gathered at the corner of Booth and Wellington to rally in support of those opposed to COVID-19 vaccine mandates. Photo by Ashley Fraser /Postmedia

“When I came here, I came here with an open mind and I saw the people were hugging each other, loving each other and praying with each other,” Miriam Grymes said.

“I saw nothing but support and people that wanted the same thing: freedom. They wanted to be believed and they wanted to be heard. And I feel like all of us, in some way or another, has had our voices taken away from us.”

Shelly Phillpotts lives in downtown Ottawa and was drawn to the “Freedom Convoy” when it first began. Phillpotts was born in Jamaica, but does not consider the movement to be racist or misogynistic.

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“One beautiful thing happened,” she said. “We met and networked with so many people and we kept in contact.”

Vladislav Sobolev said he had been organizing anti-mask and anti-vaccine rallies since the spring of 2020. He arrived in Ottawa to support the convoy on Jan. 26, and had been organizing Saturday’s demonstration since last weekend.

Sobolev is from Kazakstan and said he had personal experience with “tyranny spreading slowly.”

“The point is we have a right to peaceably assemble,” he said. “The reality is that a lot of people in Ottawa support this movement.”

Jesse Grymes, a Texas native, has lived in Canada for five years. His 12-year-old son is autistic and has found it hard to wear a mask.

“I’m definitely a believer in not having to show my medical records to anybody, except for my doctor,” he said.

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Grymes said he had hugged about a thousand strangers in the past two weeks. “I did my own science experiment, Justin Trudeau.”

Phillpotts lives downtown. While she can understand that the noise of the truckers’ horns was distressing for some, for her, the noise of the truckers’ horns blaring was “like a song.”

Phillpotts has not been vaccinated, but continues to hold down two jobs. However, her sister, a registered nurse, was not able to keep her job and now holds three driving jobs to pay the mortgage, she said.

“People’s livelihoods were being taken away. There are people from all over Canada who are silently going through this pain every day. So, for them to come and talk about it, finally, it was amazing. I had to be here to voice it myself.”

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Community Solidarity Ottawa held a community meet-up and reach-out to show support for residents and workers whose lives were disrupted by the “Freedom Convoy” at Minto Park on Saturday.
Community Solidarity Ottawa held a community meet-up and reach-out to show support for residents and workers whose lives were disrupted by the “Freedom Convoy” at Minto Park on Saturday. Photo by Ashley Fraser /Postmedia

The rally at the intersection of Booth and Wellington came just hours after a delegation of Algonquin elders and community members conducted a cleansing ceremony at Wellington and Metcalfe.

Police said that ceremony “follows breaches of ancestral protocols to return peace, harmony and healing to the National Capital Region, the traditional Anishinabeg ancestral lands.”

Meanwhile, downtown residents who weathered the storm of the “Freedom Convoy” protests held a gathering at Minto Park with the goal of promoting community care and safety.

Community Solidarity Ottawa is to hold a larger rally on March 5, with details still to be released.

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