- Thousands of Canadians are protesting Covid-19 lockdown measures and vaccine mandates.
- Some are blocking roads in Canada's capital, letting off fireworks, and driving recklessly, police say.
- The protest began as a so-called "Freedom Convoy" of truckers but has snowballed into something bigger.
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What started as a protest by Canadian truckers against cross-border Covid-19 vaccine mandates has turned into a "nationwide insurrection," according to one Ottawa lawmaker. It's seen thousands of Canadians flock to their capital to voice disapproval of lockdown measures and other aspects of the government's pandemic response.
The so-called "Freedom Convoy" of Canadian truckers began protesting at Parliament Hill on January 29. Organizers said policies like vaccine mandates were "political overreach" and were "destroying the foundation of our businesses, industries, and livelihoods." They said they wouldn't stop protesting until all mandates were lifted.
Since January 15, Canada has required US truckers to present proof of full vaccination to cross the border. Unvaccinated Canadian truckers who drive to the US have to quarantine and get tested upon their return. The US imposed a similar mandate on January 22.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk tweeted that "Canadian truckers rule," while former president Donald Trump said the convoy was "peacefully protesting the harsh policies of far-left lunatic Justin Trudeau who has destroyed Canada with insane Covid mandates."
The protests aren't just about truckers any more
The Freedom Convoy protest has snowballed into a broader demonstration, attracting largely right-wing Canadians who oppose vaccine mandates and are unhappy with the government's response to the pandemic.
Some protesters have let off fireworks, according to police, and blocked roads including the busiest bridge for transporting goods between the US and Canada. Police said they'd issued hundreds of tickets for offences linked to the demonstrations, including driving on sidewalks, driving through no-truck routes, and red light violations. A war memorial was desecrated during the protests, police said.
As of Tuesday, up to 500 vehicles were occupying the center of downtown Ottawa, officials said.
Councillor Diane Deans, who chairs Ottawa's police-services board, said protestors were "terrorising" and "threatening" the city's residents and stopping them sleeping and working.
Incessant honking has caused "significant mental distress, suffering, and torment" to local residents, according to a class-action lawsuit seeking 9.8 million Canadian dollars ($7.7 million) in damages. A Canadian judge on Monday banned protesters from honking excessively or blowing airhorns for 10 days.
The Canadian Trucking Alliance has discouraged truckers from disrupting highways and commerce at the border and has said that many of the protesters aren't connected to the industry.
Hundreds of counter-protesters have taken to the city's streets, demanding an end to the demonstration.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was moved to a secret location the day the protests started, CBC reported.
GoFundMe blocked $10 million donations to Freedom Convoy
The Freedom Convoy organizers set up a GoFundMe that raised $10 million to buy fuel, among other things, but GoFundMe blocked the donations on Saturday, citing evidence "that the previously peaceful demonstration has become an occupation, with police reports of violence and other unlawful activity." Donations are to be automatically refunded.
The organisers have since turned to Christian fundraising site GiveSendGo and have raised close to $6 million from more than 63,000 donors.