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Ottawa resident organizing weekend 'Freedom Convoy' counter-protest after inaction from police, politicians

The group is set to gather at the Ottawa Police Service headquarters then march to City Hall to call for more action from the authorities to protect downtown area residents.
2022-01-31 truck convoy 3
Truck convoy protest on Parliament Hill on Monday, January 31, 2022. (Photo/Nigel Newlove)

Mackenzie Demers is gearing up for another demonstration — a counter-protest — this weekend, as "Freedom Convoy" demonstrations continue throughout the downtown core.

The Ottawa resident has taken it upon himself to organize the counter-protest for Saturday, February 5, with the hope that people in power start taking further action.

He told CityNews Ottawa that he'd like to see the removal of truckers protesting in the downtown core, the end of intense noise in the area and for protesters to stop harassing other people.

"If all of that doesn't work, [then] a police response as the entire response has been lacking," Demers said.

Counter-protesters have already started demonstrations in Ottawa. In the evening of Wednesday, February 2, a group of counter-protesters gathered outside Ottawa police headquarters on Elgin Street for a second night.

Demers said the response from Ottawa Police Service (OPS) during the "Freedom Convoy" protests has left him feeling "betrayed" and "disappointed."

After attending the protests last weekend, Demers said police escorted him away once he got into a confrontation but officers ignored other protesters.

"Chief Sloly, he made it a point to say that the fact that there was no deaths was an absolute success for the Ottawa police," Demers said. "I disagree with that wholly. I was there last Saturday and the things I saw were absolutely atrocious, and the police were taking pictures with these people with the masks off.

"The police are there to serve this community, and most of these people who are in the downtown core right now are not Ottawa citizens. They are coming from outside and they are here to cause a ruckus."

For this Saturday's counter-protest, Demers plans for people to gather at the OPS Elgin Street headquarters at noon, walk to City Hall by 2 p.m. and wrap up by 5 p.m.

He aims for it to be a "standing protest" that will see demonstrators call out local politicians and the OPS on what they say is the inaction displayed over the past several days.

"We will not be approaching the protesters, we will not be engaging with them," Demers said. "This is not about them; this is about getting action done to remove them."

He adds that counter-protesters don't want to see confrontation with the "Freedom Convoy" protesters, especially since many counter-protesters will be visible minorities or from communities such as the 2SLGBTQ+.

He said his counter-protest organizers are concerned about the safety of their demonstrators. After making his plans public in a Reddit post, he said he's already received numerous online threats and that police have told him the "Freedom Convoy" protesters might have guns.

"These occupiers are white supremacists," Demers said. "There is a current worry that they will be targeting these minority groups if something goes on at the protest."

Demers said it's inequitable how the OPS treated protesters during the Black Lives Matter protests in 2020 compared to how officers are currently treating "Freedom Convoy" protesters.

The Ottawa Black Diaspora Coalition's co-chair, Vanessa Dorimain, told The Sam Laprade Show on Wednesday, February 2 that the OPS is doing "absolutely nothing" despite officers seeing inappropriate and questionable behaviour, adding the coalition saw quick action from police when they were protesting last year to reallocate the OPS' funding.

Demers adds that the lack of action from politicians in this situation is upsetting.

"I hope that somebody stands up and either deals with these truckers or these occupiers, and I hope these occupiers will realize that they're not wanted here and maybe they'll leave," he said. "Maybe they'll open their eyes and realize that these mandates and they'll go to Toronto because there's a fundamental misunderstanding on their part on who controls what mandate and where these actual restrictions are coming from."

To make the protest safer for counter-protesters, he said a liaison officer has offered protection as long as they keep their demonstrations peaceful.

"This is not about the mandates, this is not about the protests," Demers said. "They have the right to protest, just as we do. However, they do not have the right to harass our citizens, they do not have the right to honk their horns in the middle of the night and they do not have the right to terrorize our citizens."

Chris Stoodley

About the Author: Chris Stoodley

Chris was born and raised in Halifax. After graduating from the journalism program at King's, he started as CityNews Halifax's weekend editor.
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