Thousands of protesters have gathered in Ottawa to protest vaccine mandates and a whole host of COVID-19 policies and they aren’t making lots of friends in Canada’s capital. There was widespread outrage over the weekend amid reports of swastika flags among the protesters, some of whom reportedly urinated on the National War Memorial, danced on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, and desecrated a statue of Canadian hero Terry Fox. Police said they are investigating possible criminal charges amid numerous reports of protesters threatening and harassing police and city workers as well as private citizens. The protests began as a demonstration against a vaccine mandate for truckers crossing the border into the United States. But it has since grown into a general protest against all vaccine mandates and other COVID-19 restrictions.
In one of the most shocking reports, a homeless shelter that is located a few blocks from Parliament said a service user and a security guard were assaulted as staff had to endure lots of harassment from protesters who pressured them to provide meals. Apparently, the harassment came amid a difficulty for protesters to find places that would serve them without wearing face masks. The shelter ended up giving the protesters food to try to prevent the violence from escalating. Shepherds of Good Hope made the situation public, saying it wanted to counter the narrative that it was happy to serve the protesters. “It’s been super challenging for the staff … They’re exhausted, they’re tired. And when they see people coming in and taking services from people who need them the most … It’s very discouraging,” Deirdre Freiheit, the president and CEO of the shelter, said.
The mayor of Ottawa is calling on the protesters to move on and let the city return to normal as downtown is clogged with parked vehicles and protesters. But organizers say they aren’t going anywhere and are willing to stay there for months if necessary. “You have the right to protest, you’ve had your protest, please move on. Our city has to get back in normal stead,” Mayor Jim Watson said. Several videos of protesters harassing restaurant and hotel staff have been posted to Twitter. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Canadians as a whole aren’t represented by this “very troubling, small but very vocal minority of Canadians who are lashing out at science, at government, at society, at mandates and public health advice.” Canada has one of the highest vaccination rates in the world with 80 percent of its population fully vaccinated against COVID-19 while 40 percent have received a booster shot.