Five weeks after police pushed Freedom Convoy protesters out of the downtown core, they returned.
Saturday afternoon, hundreds of cars travelling from Saint-Lambert-de-Lauzon, Que. detoured through the downtown, honking down King Edward Avenue, Laurier Avenue and O’Connor Street, as they made their way to Vankleek Hill.
“I think the visibility will be there, it’s good for optics. They’re going to come through, let Ottawa know that we’re still here, we haven’t left, and we’re not going anywhere until these mandates lift,” Jeromy O’Sullivan, one of the protest organizers said.
Ottawa police on the scene told CTV News Ottawa they estimate that roughly 300 vehicles were part of the so-called “Next Generation Convoy.”
Police escorted the procession through parts of the city and say there were no incidents related to the demonstrations.
“We appreciate that this convoy was unwelcome for many residents and businesses. All legal authorities were examined or used in accordance with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms,” the Ottawa Police Service wrote in a tweet.
The return of the protesters, flags and horns, is an unwelcome sight for some downtown residents.
“More than anything I wish they’d just go home,” Centretown resident Erica Lackey said.
Lackey says she frequently goes to Parliament Hill, where smaller protests in support of the Freedom Convoy have continued since Wellington Street reopened to pedestrians.
“If they’re not actually causing disturbances and they’re not harming people, then they can do what they want, but it’s when they start causing disturbances that’s when we have an issue,” she said.
The convoy, which did not stop in Ottawa began in Quebec, picked up supporters in Drummondville and Montreal on its way to a rural headquarters just outside Vankleek Hill.
“We’re growing, we’re coming back, we’re going to build back better so to speak,” O’Sullivan said.
Those supporting the procession on the ground in Ottawa say they’re still fighting for an end to COVID-19 mandates, despite most being lifted already, and plans from the provincial government to lift all remaining mandates by the end of April .
“I’m hoping that all of the mandates are dropped. Federally we still can’t travel, we don’t have the right to mobility, university still can’t go to school without being vaccinated and that’s completely wrong, they have the right to an education,” convoy supporter Sarah Marckesano said.
Convoy supporters say they’re not concerned about the impact another demonstration could have on Ottawa residents or their message.
“If it gets attention then that’s what a protest does, we’re here to disrupt until our voices are heard,” Marckesano added.
But those living in downtown Ottawa say another parade along Laurier Avenue is the last thing they wanted.
“At the end of the day we’ve been putting up with months of this now and we’re tired,” Lackey said.
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