Ottawa residents are fed up with truck convoy protests

Just over a week has passed since a convoy of heavy trucks, vans and cars began their loud, intimidating and illegal occupation, accordi...

Just over a week has passed since a convoy of heavy trucks, vans and cars began their loud, intimidating and illegal occupation, according to police, of downtown Ottawa.

Now the nation’s capital is preparing for a new wave of protesters, possibly another 300-400 trucks and 2,000 people on foot while Toronto and Quebec are also eagerly awaiting the arrival of more convoys. (My colleagues and I will report throughout the weekend on all of these events.)

Most of the images and photographs of the truckers’ continued presence in Ottawa this week come from Wellington Street, the usually busy thoroughfare in front of Parliament which is also lined by the Prime Minister’s Office, several offices belonging to Senators and Members of Parliament, the Bank of Canada, the Supreme Court and the Library and Archives Canada building. The pandemic has caused most of these buildings to be largely empty these days.

But just to the south is the rest of Centretown, one of the city’s most densely populated residential areas. It’s a mix of high-rise apartments, condo towers, social housing, co-op housing, and beautifully restored heritage homes, all located on mostly narrow streets. And since the truck convoy arrived, the normally quiet downtown has become a crowded and noisy nightmare for many residents.

“I get hundreds – and I’m not exaggerating – hundreds of emails saying, ‘I went out shopping, I was yelled at, I was harassed. I was followed in the street, I’m so scared I can’t get out,” Catherine McKenney, city councilor for the area, told me Thursday afternoon. “a national crisis and an occupation of our city. And there’s just no urgency on the part of the federal government, the provincial government and, quite frankly, even our own police.

Noise has been one of the biggest problems downtown, as well as Byward Market and Lowertown, the other two neighborhoods where protesters have settled.

Day and night, trucks rumbled through their streets, blaring air horns – some of them of the variety usually found on railroad locomotives. Impromptu fireworks shows, some until midnight, add to the cacophony.

“The honking horn is really meant to terrorize this community – and it works,” Mx said. McKenney, who will be running for mayor later this year.

Three women were celebrated by the neighborhood as local heroes sort of when they stood in the way of a heavy truck lumbering down their downtown street, responding to every truck horn blast with a thumbs down.

The week brought many reports of people being harangued by protesters for wearing masksprotesters trying to tear up the pro-vaccination signs on houses and others defecate and urinate on lawns. The air on many streets is filled with diesel exhaust from idling trucks.

Many local stores temporarily closed, while those that remained open struggled to enforce provincial mask rules. In the ByWard Market neighborhood, the Rideau Center, an upscale mall that includes two department stores, closed last weekend after being overrun by maskless protesters. It plans to remain closed until Monday. I couldn’t determine how many people lost their jobs, but the Retail Council of Canada, a trade group, estimates the closure will cost stores C$19.7 million in lost sales.

On Friday, Ottawa Police Chief Peter Sloly backed down from previous praise for the force’s handling of protesters.

“Ottawa residents are frustrated and angry, and they have every right to be,” he told a news conference. “Their lives continue to be severely impacted by illegal and dangerous events on city streets, downtown and surrounding neighborhoods. This is unacceptable.”

After saying earlier that “there may not be a police solution to this protest”, Mr Sloly announced that police officials were adopting new strategies and adding additional officers downtown.

“The wave will deliver a clear message to protesters: lawlessness must end,” he said. “Our goal is to end the protests.”

After several days indoors to avoid noise and confusion, downtown resident Kiavash Najafi finally started walking around his neighborhood again with his 4-month-old daughter.

Mr Najafi, who is on parental leave from his job in a public sector union, said he often stops to ask drivers who are clogging neighborhood streets to turn off their engines and talk to him.

“There were older guys, they have families – they like to see my baby,” Mr Najafi told me. “It’s not the dangerous elements that we have to worry about. And I just asked them to please leave and told them that driving us crazy and hurting the people who live in these buildings around downtown isn’t exactly the best way to make a point.

Mr Najafi said he found that there were many different sub-groups within the protesters, and that many of the people he met were far from the aggressive and hate-filled protesters that one seen in much of the footage of the protest.

Although many truckers he spoke to apologized, none of them accepted Mr. Najafi’s suggestion to leave town.

Originally from Windsor, Ontario, Ian Austen was educated in Toronto, lives in Ottawa and has reported on Canada for The New York Times for the past 16 years. Follow him on Twitter at @ianrausten.

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Newsrust - US Top News: Ottawa residents are fed up with truck convoy protests
Ottawa residents are fed up with truck convoy protests
Newsrust - US Top News
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