'Freedom Convoy' truckers brave -24F to keep 400 rigs in Ottawa's historic Confederation Square

7 months ago

Freedom Convoy organizers have agreed to try to get truckers to move their rigs from ‘residential streets’ in Ottawa in a backdoor deal with city mayor Jim Watson.

The first potential break-through in the 16-day deadlock was revealed in letters between the civic leader and Tamara Lich, who is president of Freedom Convoy 2022.

She said in a letter: ‘The truckers here in Ottawa have always been about peaceful protest. Many of the citizens and businesses in Ottawa have been cheering us on but we are also disturbing others. That was never our intent.

‘The Freedom Convoy Board agree with your request to reduce pressure on the residents and businesses in the City of Ottawa. We have made a plan to consolidate our protest efforts around Parliament Hill.

‘We will be working hard over the next 24 hours to get buy-in from the truckers. We hope to start repositioning our trucks on Monday.

‘As stated in your letter, we look forward to working with authorities to ensure the safe movement of our trucks to their new locations.

‘Please reach should you have any questions. We look forward to meeting with you to discuss the issues raised by the truckers.’

Watson had written to Lich saying: ‘The protests in our city, and the occupation of certain residential districts by a large number of trucks, is now entering its third week….

‘Our residents are exhausted and on edge, and out small businesses impacted by your blockades are teetering on the brink of permanent closure.

‘I don’t believe these harmful effects on our community and its residents were the intended consequences of your protests.

‘That’s why I am writing to ask that you remove your convoy and its trucks from all of our residential neighborhoods… I ask that you immediately seek the support of the truckers to follow this path.’

Stephanie Ravensbergen, 31, was posted in her family's truck in Ottawa, Ontario, on Saturday. She came to support her aunt and uncle, who have parked their semi in the streets since the beginning of the COVID-19 restrictions mandate protest. She opposes vaccine and mask requirements and said it's important for schoolchildren to see their friends' faces and emotions

At least 400 truckers were parked in Ottawa’s historic Confederation Square on Saturday night as 'Freedom Convoy' protests continued. Above, a truck passed Ontario Provincial Police officers and demonstrators on the Toronto-bound QEW highway after crossing the Peace Bridge in Fort Erie, Ontario on Saturday

A group of Freedom Convoy supporters gathered around a makeshift campfire across the street from Canada's Parliament Hill early on Sunday morning. Some of them traveled hundreds of miles to join the protest

If the truckers follow this request, it would moving an estimated 100 rigs from their current location.

The move was revealed as Federal minister Bill Blair warned the Canadian government could invoke special emergency powers to bust the blockade.

He also called the lack of enforcement ‘inexplicable’ and the police ‘need to do their job’.

Blair, who is Emergency Preparedness Minister, said: ‘We have an emergency act that.. there has been a near constant and vigorous examination of those authorities and what’s required.’

He added on CTV show Question Period: ‘When circumstances exceed the capacity of the provinces to manage it under their authorities, we’re quite prepared to use additional authorities that are available to the deferral government.

‘We’re prepared to use every took available to us, including emergency powers. This is a critical situation for the country.’

Ottawa mayor Watson said on the same show that ‘there’s no question’ that control has been lost in Canada’s capital.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is scheduled to chair a meeting of his country’s Incident Response Group on Monday.

The developments also came after at least 200 Ottawa residents fought back against the occupation by blocking shipments of fuel into the Red Zone.

They formed a human chain to prevent vehicles carrying jerry cans of diesel reaching the area. 

Veterans cleared snow and ice off the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier during protests against COVID-19 restrictions on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Saturday

Protesters were forced to end their occupation of the busiest bridge from Canada to the United States on Sunday morning after police in Windsor, Ontario, started arresting demonstrators and towing away vehicles. 

Police swept through the convoy around 7am, following a standoff that began Friday evening when a Canadian judge issued a 10-day injunction making it unlawful to block Ambassador Bridge – which connects Windsor with Detroit.

Protesters in trucks, cars and vans have blocked traffic in both directions since Monday, choking the supply chain for Detroit's carmakers.  

Overnight on Saturday, 400 truckers parked their rigs in downtown Ottawa and braved temperatures plunging to a dangerous negative 24 Fahrenheit with the wind chill factor.  

Thousands of supporters thronged the scenic streets, festooned in the Canadian flag and creating a carnival atmosphere with impromptu street parties. One of the biggest was outside the Parliament Building - with a stage directly across from Prime Minister’s window. 

Despite clearing the key bridge on Sunday morning, however, officials kept Ambassador Bridge closed to traffic.   

Protesters lingered in the vicinity of the bridge after their forced removal, however, gathering on sidewalks and in parking lots of local businesses.  

One small group convened at a Shell gas station with a couple of men in a pickup truck who were blasting Twisted Sister's 1984 protest anthem, 'We're not going to take it.' 

Christian Muntean, 45 - from Windsor, Ontario where the Ambassador Bridge is the busiest crossing point between the US and Canada, is currently in the Canadian capital, and said: ‘We will win. There is no way back. I won’t give up.’ 

Sitting in the cab of his immaculate yellow Peterbilt truck, the single dad added: ‘I’ve been here for the last three weeks. And I will stay until the end. 

‘The end will be when the government, Trudeau, let’s us chose what we want. To let us chose what we want to put in our bodies.' 

'I’m not vaccinated. That’s my choice. But I’m losing my livelihood because of it.’

Muntean said he will have lost 20,000 Canadian dollars if the stand-off lasts another week. 

Cowgirls on horseback joined the tuckers, laborers, and protesters rally at Parliament Hill in Ottawa in -24F temperatures to support the 'Freedom Convoy' supporters

A protester on horseback joined the demonstration in Ottawa on Sunday. A tense standoff at a U.S.-Canadian border crossing crucial to both countries' economies appeared to be dissolving peacefully Saturday as Canadian police moved in to disperse the nearly weeklong blockade and demonstrators began leaving without resistance

‘This my truck and I usually travel to the US, back and forth, back and forth. Now I can’t do it because I’m not vaccinated,’ he said. 

‘I normally use the Ambassador Bridge twice a week. I’m losing a lot man, $20,000 a month. I am angry and disillusioned. But people are kind. They give us food, water and occasionally some money to help out.’ 

A Ukrainian trucker who has been driving in Canada for 10 years was equally defiant. He refused to be named, but insisted: ‘I’ve been here for two weeks and I’m not going anywhere. 

‘I haven’t been vaccinated but that’s up to me, my personal choice. It’s going to be extremely cold tonight but I’m not bothered by that.' 

'This is more important than surviving freezing temperatures- this is about our freedom of choice and our livelihoods. I am losing at least $1,000 a day being here but I’m staying.' 

A cop policing the thousands of Canadian flag-waving protestors joining the Freedom Convoy in Ottawa has admitted to DailyMail.com: ‘They are in control – no doubt about that.’

Demonstrators in Ottawa continued to drastically outnumber the city's entire 1,480-strong force on Sunday, with officers now reduced to standing by and watching as around 4,000 people are now part of the occupation.

In fact, there appears to be a growing element of sympathy among some officers for the truckers and others who woke up on Sunday morning after enduring bone-chilling overnight temperatures of negative 24 Fahrenheit with wind chill.

Asked if he believed police would move in to smash the demonstration in Canada's capital city, he replied: 'No, I cannot see that happening.

'It doesn't matter how many boots we have on the ground, they have more.

'It's going to be up to these people, and I guess the politicians, when this ends.'

The officer, who would not be named, continued: 'We're doing the best we can, but we are outnumbered, overwhelmed and exhausted - especially on the weekend when lots of people who are not part of the actual trucker convoy have come down here.

'Our priority is to keep the peace and make sure everyone is safe.

'It's less about enforcement. I can't go around focused on violations for openly carrying alcohol and stuff like that that isn't hurting anyone. We can't start taking away fuel and water and the things these people need to survive.'

The cop also emphasized that using all his department's resources to police the burgeoning demo would leave the rest of the city vulnerable.

'People don't realize that this is a city of 1 million people and this is happening in a few blocks of downtown – and only about 6,000 people live in the core,' he told DailyMail.com.

A wall of signs, flags and other showings of support for the truckers was displayed at Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Sunday

Hundreds turned out at a rally in Ottawa to back the 'Freedom Convoy'

'We have to continue responding to calls all over the city so we can't pull everyone down here.

'We are stretched. Vacation times have been suspended and everyone is doing overtime. We come here to a hotel and get a few hours of sleep and a shower and then we're back out on the street.

'We're away from our families. I feel like we're doing what we can with what we have to make this safe for everyone no matter what side you're on.'

He made his views plain as the truckers' protest over a Canadian government mandate - forcing them to be fully vaccinated when they return from their regular runs to the United States - continued to spread across the country.

Directly across from the Parliament Buildings, five men and a woman gathered around a makeshift campfire on Sunday morning amid the cacophony of noise from running truck engines and generators on day 16 of Ottawa's 'Red Zone' occupation. More than 400 trucks are clogging the streets of the city. 

They all backed up the view that cops are now standing well back – and in some cases actually helping the demonstrators.

Will, 50, who refused to give his last name and is not a trucker, traveled 310 miles from Guelph, Ontario, said: 'From what I can tell, they want to be here less than we want to be here.

'They're walking around, they're saying 'hi' to people, they're fist-bumping people – not all of them – but I'd say that a good 75 percent of them are just miserable.'

The hardy protestor and his group slept out in the grueling cold with the others – and has been in Ottawa three weeks. 

He continued: 'At the very beginning the police were trying to do things to dissuade everybody. Take gas, take wood. Make up a couple of lies here and there, put it on the news.

'Now, I haven't seen anybody get a ticket.

'There's too many people. If they kept taking the gas you can't get no heat. If they take the wood, you can't heat. And there's kids here, too. If somebody freakin' died in their truck…'

'I don't think the police could stop it. I don't think they could do it. But the army could. However, they're not going to fire on civilians. And I'm in it for the long haul, as long as I can stay.'

His fellow group member John, 57, who hitchhiked 225 miles from North Bay, Ontario, weighed in: 'Even if they took every person off the grounds they still have all those trucks.

Counter-protesters gathered in support of vaccines and mandates as a larger group of people against COVID-19 measures has grown into a broader anti-government protest in Ottawa, Ontario, on Saturday

Anti-mandate protesters demonstrated in the snow during a demonstration against COVID-19 restrictions on Parliament Hill, in Ottawa, on Saturday

Demonstrators in Ottawa continued to drastically outnumber the city's entire 1,480-strong force on Sunday, with officers now reduced to standing by and watching as around 4,000 people are now part of the occupation

'It's not a win. How do you win it? It would take months to make it a win because you still have vehicles that you have to move.' 

John said he lost a glove and a cop came to the rescue. 'He saw me sleeping me on the steps and he brought me gloves with heating pads in them, said the demonstrator.

'I can't even publicly thank him for it because he would lose his job or have some sort of blowback. It's a shame.'

He added: 'Look, if Canadians who are known the world over for being polite can get this well organized and riled up, then I'm certain folk in the US would take it to a different level.'

A joint command center has now been set up between The Ottawa Police Service, Ontario Provincial Police and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

A statement from the Ontario force on Saturday said this was to beef up enforcement that had been limited by 'safety concerns – arising from aggressive, illegal behavior by many demonstrators' and 'limited police enforcement capabilities'.

It added: 'We have a plan to end this unlawful occupation and await necessary reinforcements to do so.'

Ottawa City councilor Diane Deans, chair of the police services board, has admitted: 'They (police officers) have been working very hard under very stressful circumstances. 

'Everyone in OPS is extremely tired. This has gone on for 16 days with right now no end in sight, and they need help and resources.'

Ottawa mayor Jim Watson declared a state of emergency in the city last week. His spokesman Patrick Champagne called the protest an 'unprecedented insurrection, which is now national and international in scope'.

Saturday saw many of the thousands of demonstrators and their supporters partying to loud music right outside the office window of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Street vendors had set up stalls selling Canada flags and were doing a brisk trade with people who draped them over their shoulders to continue the almost carnival-like atmosphere.

Firework displays on a nearby street went on past midnight. As demonstrators woke up on Sunday morning, music continued to blare from various locations around the static trucks.

But amid the revelry, truckers whose livelihoods depend on crossing the border to the US, the atmosphere over the weekend was more somber.

Drivers who parked their rigs in Ottawa's historic Confederation Square continued to denounce Trudeau and remained defiant despite the lack of facilities and temperatures. 

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