Morning Chronicle - More protesters against Covid measures enter Canada capital

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More protesters against Covid measures enter Canada capital
More protesters against Covid measures enter Canada capital

More protesters against Covid measures enter Canada capital

Protesters again poured into Canada's capital early Saturday to join a convoy of truckers whose occupation of Ottawa to denounce Covid vaccine mandates is now in its second week.

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Individuals and families huddled around campfires in bone-chilling weather and erected bouncy castles for children outside Parliament, while waving Canadian flags and anti-government placards.

Police, who were out in force and erected barriers overnight to limit vehicle access to the city center, said they were expecting up to 2,000 protesters -- as well as 1,000 counterprotesters -- to join hundreds of truckers already clogging Ottawa streets.

But organizers of the so-called "Freedom Convoy" told AFP they expected their numbers to swell into the tens of thousands.

Similar protests were planned for Toronto, Quebec City and Winnipeg.

The atmosphere early Saturday appeared more festive than a week earlier, when some protesters waved Confederate flags and Nazi symbols -- which were condemned by government officials -- and clashed with locals.

Police have vowed to end the "unlawful" occupation as soon as possible.

But on Saturday, there were signs the protesters were digging in. They had erected a wooden shed and tents to house food supplies for demonstrators and fuel for the big rigs.

One woman offered passersby hand-warmers as temperatures were forecast to plunge to -30 degrees Celsius (-22 Fahrenheit).

Kimberly Ball and her husband had driven five hours from a small town west of Toronto to join the demonstration.

"It's not about whether you get the vaccine or not," she insisted. "It's about our freedom."

Holding back tears, she added: "It's really, really tough. A couple of people we know, friends, also lost their jobs because of these mandates."

Ball has had Covid-19 and said she is not convinced the vaccines are safe and effective.

She is, however, in the minority in Canada, where 90 percent of adults are fully vaccinated.

The Freedom Convoy started on Canada's Pacific coast in late January and picked up supporters along the trek to the capital. The protest has drawn more than 10 million Canadian dollars ($8 million) in online donations.

The number of protesters in Ottawa had peaked at several thousand last Saturday, according to officials, before dwindling to a few hundred by midweek.

This weekend Ottawa police worked to contain the protests to the parliamentary precinct, after widespread complaints of harassment, threats and sleeplessness caused by incessant honking.