A convoy that started out to protest mandatory coronavirus vaccinations for truckers reached Ottawa on Saturday, after picking up demonstrators and causes as it crossed Canada. The "Freedom Convoy," which began its trip in British Columbia, now includes people opposed to all pandemic restrictions, many who want Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to resign, and others who are opposed to government in general, the New York Times reports. Trudeau and his family were moved from their home to an undisclosed location in the capital, per the CBC.
Organizers said they wanted a peaceful event, but there were threats made. A large police presence watched the thousands of protesters, and reinforcements were called in as the number of demonstrators increased Saturday. Lawmakers were warned to lock their doors, and there were reports that their homes might be attacked, per the AP. Streets around Parliament were packed with cars and trucks. The crowd carried homemade signs, often on hockey sticks, protesting public health policies. Canada's coronavirus vaccination rates are among the highest in the world.
The protesters' actions quickly drew criticism. Swastikas and the Confederate flag were seen in the crowd, per the AP. Some demonstrators parked on the grounds of the National War Memorial, prompted the mayor to tweet, "Parking on this sacred ground that includes the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier was a sign of complete disrespect." And a Canadian flag was draped upside down on the statue of national hero Terry Fox, with a sign reading, "Mandate freedom." Fox lost a leg when he was young, then crossed Canada to raise money for cancer research. The Terry Fox Foundation issued a statement Saturday saying, "Terry believed in science and gave his life to help others," which Trudeau retweeted. (Read more Canada stories.)