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Multiple arrests made in Ottawa as anti-vaccine protests continue ahead of Canada Day

Police have arrested four people in downtown Ottawa after a Canadian soldier charged for speaking out against COVID-19 vaccine requirements led a procession into the city.
Barrier Parliament
Fencing up in front of the Supreme Court of Canada in advance of Canada Day celebrations and another convoy protest.

Police have arrested four people in downtown Ottawa after a Canadian soldier charged for speaking out against COVID-19 vaccine requirements led a procession into the city.

“Police are dealing with a situation in the Wellington and Elgin area. Please give police space to safely conduct their duties,” Ottawa Police said Thursday night.

Investigators announced a fourth arrest had been made for incidents including assaulting officers.

James Topp was charged in February with two counts of conduct to the prejudice of good order and discipline for comments made while wearing his uniform.

He has since been leading a four-month march to the capital from Vancouver.

Topp’s march has been supported by many of the exact figures involved in the so-called “Freedom Convoy” that snarled downtown Ottawa for weeks until police used force to end what they and the government described as an illegal occupation.

A crowd of about 1,200 people cheered and chanted “Freedom!” as he arrived this evening at the National War Memorial, where he knelt, weeping, by the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier before delivering a speech to the crowd.

The event appeared non-violent as he met with his supporters and posed for photographs. But not long after, police said they responded to a “situation” in the area and arrested four people over incidents, including assaulting police officers.

One officer could be seen pouring water into his eyes as a woman nearby yelled about police using pepper spray. At the same time, however, members of the crowd continued to mill about happily and line up for photographs with Topp.

Topp’s arrival in the capital and promises of a new round of protests starting Canada Day have set residents on edge. Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson and the city’s interim police chief, Steve Bell, have promised to crack down on illegal activity.

Earlier Thursday, Conservative leadership candidate Pierre Poilievre joined the final leg of Topp’s march. Poilievre walked alongside Topp for about half an hour after the two met shortly before noon in the parking lot of a strip mall west of downtown Ottawa, where hundreds of people had gathered to see the army reservist.

Video of the meeting shows Poilievre expressing his opposition to vaccine mandates and citing to Topp a famous quote by then-prime minister John Diefenbaker about being a “free Canadian” when he signed the Canadian Bill of Rights in 1960.

When Topp said he wanted reinstatement and reparations for anyone who lost their job because of vaccine mandates, Poilievre replied: “Everybody who lost their job simply because of a COVID mandate should be restored to their job, no question about it.”

Tamara Lich, a leader of the convoy that gridlocked Ottawa in February, briefly appeared in court on Thursday after allegedly breaching one of her bail conditions. Lich, who faces multiple charges including mischief and obstructing police, will remain in custody until her bail hearing on Tuesday.

Many marchers declined to be interviewed, saying they did not trust that their words would not be twisted.

But Ottawa resident Richard Gervais, who was among the hundreds of people marching along the Rideau Canal to downtown Ottawa, called Topp an “inspiration to us all.”

“Here he is, the most peaceful, the nicest, the most decent human being you could possibly ever want to meet, and he’s walking across Canada to make a point,” he added.

A motor vehicle control zone is already in place, which spans from Booth Street in the west all the way to Sussex Drive and Colonel By Drive in the east. 

The roads are not closed. Residential and business traffic, as well as pedestrians, cyclists and public transit are permitted to enter and exit the control zone.
Motor vehicles taking part in any form of demonstration, event, protest or rally will not be permitted.

Since 8 a.m. on June 29, by-law officials have issued 275 parking tickets and towed 72 vehicles located in the vehicle control zone in place for Canada Day events and demonstrations this weekend.

With files from CityNews Ottawa. 

 

 

 

 

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