Thursday, December 08, 2022

After the weekend’s protests, Ottawa residents are feeling the effects. Nation World News

Ottawa’s downtown core has been buzzing with horns and crowds chanting for parts of four days now, and with protesters and transportation trucks shutting down access, many in the city are beginning to feel the effects.

The protest, centered in the parliamentary complex, started in the city on Friday afternoon.

Over the weekend, thousands of protesters gathered on Parliament Hill, convoys of transport trucks blocked city streets, and the Ottawa Police Service launched several criminal investigations into the desecration of monuments and the illegal or threatening behavior of protesters.

It began as a protest against mandatory vaccinations for cross-border truck drivers, but has since evolved to include a series of protests against COVID-19 public health measures. It has also attracted international media attention.

look | Range of goals for protesters:

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Frustration uniting protesters on Parliament Hill

The convoy of protesters gathered on Parliament Hill represents a range of grievances and demands. Some want an end to vaccine mandates and restrictions, while those behind Canada Unity, which helped organize the convoy, want to replace the current federal government. 2:59

Shepherd of Good Hope chief executive Deirdre Freiheit said the shelter’s Saturday meal service was interrupted by a small group of protesters demanding food and who had faced verbal harassment to staff and volunteers.

“The staff dealt with it very well,” Freiheit said. “I think they were all upset about how it happened … It was a difficult day for everyone.”

The shelter’s communications manager, Carolyn Cox, said a resident was pinned against a truck on Saturday evening.

Based on an account from a security guard present at the scene, Cox said the brawl involved a person linked to the protest.

Cox said the security guard said she was also verbally assaulted and racially abused during the incident.

By Sunday evening, Cox said transport trucks were standing outside the shelter and sounding horns. Police were on the spot, he said.

Business packed, patrons masked

Several city facilities in the city will remain closed Monday because of protests, including Ottawa City Hall, The Rink of Dreams and the Main and Rideau branches of the Ottawa Public Library.

Rideau Center and downtown LCBO closed their doors over the weekend for security reasons, as did several businesses on Sparks Street, south of Parliament Hill.

Kevin McHale, executive director of the Sparks Street Business Improvement Area, said in an email that he estimated four Sparks Street businesses were closed on Saturday, and none remained open on Sunday.

Some workers at some downtown businesses that remained open told CBC Ottawa they were concerned about personal safety, with patrons violating COVID-19 protocols for masking and social distancing.

Sarah Mahmood, who works at the Happy Goat Coffee Company location inside the Slater Street Hotel, said the cafe was unusually busy on Sundays and the food ran out quickly.

She said most patrons were pleasant, with some wearing masks inside.

“They are insulting me. They are insulting all the staff inside the hotel,” Mahmood said. “They’re disrespecting everyone around them, because they don’t care about anyone else’s safety.”

Trucker Protest 20220130
Trucks are parked on Metcalf Street as a rally against COVID-19 restrictions, which began as a cross-country convoy protesting a federal vaccine mandate for truck drivers, continues in Ottawa. (Justin Tang / The Canadian Press)

Told masks ‘optional’, says grocery store employee

Nicholas McCafferty, an employee in Rideau Street Loblaws’ production department, said he didn’t go to work on Sunday after dealing with a crowd of unmasked shoppers during his shift.

“We were told that masks were optional for that day, and we were also told there was nothing security could do about them,” McCafferty said. “It’s not protecting the employees.”

McCafferty said he saw no violence, but on several occasions security was called for an incident.

He said none of his colleagues received advance notice that the store’s mandatory mask policy would not be implemented.

“We have immunological allies,” McCafferty said. “We have old allies, and they weren’t given that option.”

A spokesperson for Lobla Companies Ltd. denied the allegations in an email to CBC Ottawa, reiterating its official policy to require all customers to wear masks unless they have a valid exemption.

Respecting ‘terrorism’ to people with disabilities

Troy Stewart, who teaches online classes to help people with physical and mental disabilities achieve independence, said he is concerned for people with disabilities who live in the city.

He said the impact of the protests on public transport routes was hampering the ability of many of his students to access food.

With officials expecting protests to continue into the week, Stewart said he’s worried the road closures will prevent food-insecure customers from completing their weekly grocery deliveries on Wednesday.

“They are panicking for 24 hours continuously, these big trucks are coming on the roads and honking horns,” he said.

“They’re not sleeping. They’re afraid to go out.”

Ottawa police say people should avoid traveling to the city on Monday, and anyone working in the city should do so from home if they can.

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