Canada’s capital is long used to hosting protests. But the self-described “Freedom Convoy” has been an unusual and intimidating presence in Ottawa since it rolled up nearly a dozen days ago with its snowballing list of grievances, from opposition to vaccine mandates and lockdowns to antipathy toward recently reelected Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Big rigs and other vehicles continue to block crucial downtown arteries, snarling traffic, blaring their horns and fraying residents’ nerves. The protest has had the effect of forcing several businesses to close because of safety concerns. National monuments are now fenced off, after protesters desecrated them. In a surreal scene, a man on horseback traipsed down a road in front of Parliament on the weekend waving a Trump 2024 flag.

Ottawa Police Chief Peter Sloly has called it a “siege.” Ontario Premier Doug Ford cast it as an “occupation.”

The convoy, which has attracted the attention of combatants in the U.S. culture wars and drawn support from President Trump and Elon Musk, is spurring solidarity demonstrations elsewhere in Canada and inspiring similar protests from Europe to Australia. As it drags on, questions are mounting about what critics say he been the insufficient response of authorities – and what comes next.

“It’s so unprecedented that as we watched it, and as the police and government watched it approaching, they could not recognize it for what it was,” said Michael Kempa, a criminologist at the University of Ottawa. “It was figuratively outside our conceptual frame for what was possible for the city of Ottawa or for a protest in Canada.”

Police have now begun trying to choke off the supply lines of food, fuel and other goods that have sustained the protesters. Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson declared a state of emergency on Sunday, saying authorities were “losing the battle” against groups that were “calling the shots.” He asked the federal and provincial governments for 1,800 more officers.


Police said Sunday that they had “fully cleared” and fenced off a downtown park near city hall where protesters had erected a wooden structure that functioned as a makeshift kitchen. They also seized fuel, including a full tanker of gas, from a well-stocked logistics hub in the parking lot of a baseball stadium.


Canada Virus Outbreak Protest

A protester affixes a flag to the top of a truck, parked beside another with a sign calling for the jailing of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, outside Parliament Hill, as a protest against COVID-19 restrictions continues into its second week in Ottawa on Monday. Justin Tang/The Canadian Press via Associated Press

Photo and videos shared to social media over the weekend showed protesters chanting “shame” at officers and confronting them.

“How dare you do something like this when we are fighting for you?” shouted one protester in footage shared by Canadian Broadcasting Corp. News journalist Judy Trinh on Sunday evening.

Protests began in the city in late January, when people gathered to demonstrate against rules implemented by the U.S. and Canadian governments that require foreign truck drivers to be fully vaccinated to enter their countries. Demonstrators have also denounced broader coronavirus measures such as lockdowns and mask-wearing and called on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to resign.

Trudeau said last week that sending in the army to end the protests was “not in the cards.” Ottawa Police Chief Peter Sloly, under criticism for his response to the protests, had said that “there may not be a policing solution to this demonstration” and that he and other commanders were “looking at every single option, including military aid to civil power” to end it.


National monuments were defaced and protesters danced on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in some Ottawa protests. A Canadian flag featuring a swastika was spotted during television coverage of the protest and Shepherds of Good Hope, a soup kitchen, said staff members were “harassed” and verbally assaulted with racial slurs. Trudeau has condemned those gathered in the streets who had displayed “symbols of hatred and division.”

Protesters also disrupted the flow of goods and services through a blockade last weekend at a U.S.-Canada border crossing; Canadian officials had denounced the blockade as “unlawful.”

Police have repeatedly called on demonstrators not to enter the capital and “to go home,” while also advising locals to steer clear of the downtown area and to work from home when possible.

Meanwhile, after being denied several million dollars raised on GoFundMe, organizers of the Freedom Convoy protests are turning to a Christian crowdfunding site where they raised more than $3.5 million in two days.

Related Headlines

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: