OTTAWA — For three weeks, Canadians opposed to lockdowns and vaccine mandates have shown the world a new form of protest: occupying a capital city.
Hundreds of vehicles and thousands of people have taken part in the so-called Freedom Convoy, which drove across the country and arrived in downtown Ottawa late last month. They haven’t left since.
They are vowing to stay until Canada lifts all vaccine mandates. In the meantime, they’ve created a giant, perpetual street party. People lounge in hot tubs and eat barbecue food in front of the parliamentary buildings. Children play in bounce houses. There are rock concerts.
Police have been powerless to stop them, stymied by the logistics of how to arrest huge crowds of people and tow countless tons of machinery out.
The protesters see themselves as freedom fighters. To many Ottawa residents, they’re a scourge on their city. Though the demonstrations have not been violent, there have been many reports of verbal harassment. Residents have taken to physically blocking convoy vehicles trying to enter the city.
Now the tension is coming to a head. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau declared a state of emergency, bringing in new state powers to crack down on the protesters physically and financially. Police reinforcements are surging into the city. No one knows quite what will happen next.
Here are some of the scenes that we saw over the past week.