About 200 supporters of ‘Freedom Convoy’ 2.0 — dubbed the “Next Generation Convoy” by organizers — lined the sidewalks of Laurier Avenue at Confederation Park on Saturday afternoon to cheer and show support as a parade of trucks and cars, some that started the day in Quebec City, passed by.
Unlike the convoy that recently occupied downtown streets, Saturday’s was a muted affair — at least from the vehicles — with organizers stressing to participants to refrain from blowing their horns, as per instructions from Ottawa police. The slow-rolling convoy additionally did not stop, except for obvious traffic reasons, as it continued on to Vankleek Hill and Highway 417.
But the support from the sidewalk demonstrators was loud and clear, with chants of “liberté,” “freedom” and “no more mandates” amplified by bullhorns and augmented by John Lennon’s Imagine and Tom Petty’s I Won’t Back Down on a portable sound system, as well as whistles and shouts of thanks and approval. Flags representing Quebec, Canada, Ontario, Alberta, the United States and the Mohawk nation were waved, as were signs and banners bearing such slogans as “We Are All Essential,” “We the Fringe,” “Make Canada Free Again” and “ Mandate Freedom.”
It was difficult to determine how many vehicles were in the convoy as it was interspersed with regular motorists, some looking perplexed, a few others offering middle-finger salutes.
Additionally, police said the convoy arrived in Ottawa in two parts, with the first, larger segment, crossing the Macdonald-Cartier bridge at around 4 pm and taking about an hour to pass Confederation Park. The smaller, tail end arrived shortly after that.
Ottawa Police Service tweeted at 4:47 pm that the tail end had begun passing through the city. “There is congestion downtown,” OPS wrote, “and any remaining traffic is being flushed through to expedite their departure.”
The conveyors, meanwhile, voiced many of the same concerns heard during the last convoy: opposition to vaccine and other COVID-19 mandates, and government overreach in curtailing personal freedoms.
“I’m just here to show unity,” said a flag-waving Chris Dacey, who had been similarly downtown to support the first “Freedom Convoy.”
Dacey, a contractor from the Ottawa Valley, said the unpredictable opening and closing of businesses throughout the pandemic left him “haemorrhaging money” before he closed his business permanently in December 2020.
“And a year later it’s the same stuff going on. I’ve been here since before the truckers rolled in the first time, and I’ve seen a lot of people suffering. And, when I first came down, it felt like a calling.
“I want this movement to keep going,” he added. “We’ve made good strides.”
Another participant, Lorraine Ciehanskie, came downtown from Nepean on Saturday, bearing Canadian flags and crediting the earlier convoy for opening her eyes.
“I owe the truckers a lot because they woke me up to the things that have been happening in Canada and how our rights have slowly been taken away from us and trampled on.
“I was complacent,” she added. “I let it happen, and I didn’t even realize it until they came. And, the more I researched these conspiracy theories, the more I found support for them.”
Another person, who only identified himself as Mike, said he attended Saturday as an outside participant, looking on from the opposite side of Laurier Avenue.
“I’m really a third party to both sides. I don’t support the occupation of Ottawa. The last convoy was very obnoxious. Bouncy castles on Wellington Street, I can see how that’s offensive.
“But I am deeply against the mandates, and I’m deeply against incompetent government, and our social system has totally broken down, whether it’s government, bureaucracy or media. The whole system broke down.”