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Freedom Convoy: Ottawa residents 'prisoners in own homes'

Image source, Getty Images

Protests in Canada’s capital city against a vaccine mandate for truckers crossing the US-Canada border have entered their third consecutive day.

Citing “traffic, noise and safety issues” from the so-called Freedom Convoy, Ottawa police asked the public to avoid the downtown area on Monday.

Some downtown stores, including a shopping mall, will also be closed.

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Demonstrators have been mostly peaceful but behaviour by some members of the crowd has been strongly criticised.

A GoFundMe page to support the convoy has now raised over C$9m ($7m; £5.2m).

At an invite-only news conference on Sunday, Benjamin Dichter and Tamara Lich – the two organisers behind the page – said they aimed to create a “logistics nightmare” to put pressure on the Canadian government.

The convoy began as a call to end a vaccine mandate imposed by the Liberal government on 15 January that would require unvaccinated Canadian truckers returning from across the US border to quarantine once they return home.

But it has since grown into a push to end all vaccine mandates nationwide and what they see as government overreach of Covid-19 restrictions.

The crowd of demonstrators – the truckers and their supporters – were estimated to be in the thousands on Saturday as the gathered on and around parliament hill. The crowd has since thinned but many protestors have indicated they plan to stay on until their demands are met.

Around 90% of Canada’s 120,000 cross-border truckers are vaccinated, in line with the country’s adult population, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has called the protestors “a fringe minority”.

Mr Trudeau left his Ottawa home with his family over the weekend and has been staying at an undisclosed location amid security concerns.

On Monday morning, he tweeted that he had tested positive for Covid-19 and would “continue to work remotely this week while following public health guidelines”.

Members of parliament will be returning to the House of Commons on Monday after nearly two months on recess. Existing permissions for MPs to work remotely may allow legislators to avoid the protestors that have converged on parliament hill.

On Sunday, Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson said residents “feel they’re prisoners in their own homes”.

“You have the right to protest, you’ve had your protest, please move on. Our city has to get back in normal stead,” he told CBC News.

Also over the weekend, the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies slammed the use of Nazi symbols by some protestors as “a heinous form of Holocaust distortion”.

Reports on social media indicate that truckers in the US may be planning a similar demonstration that would see them drive from California in the West to the country’s capital in Washington DC.

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