OTTAWA—Thousands of protesters once again gathered in Canada’s capital to protest COVID-19 mandates and restrictions on Feb. 5.
The trucker convoy protest was joined by farmers who took their own farm vehicle convoy to Ottawa to take part in the protest.
The protest on Feb. 5 featured speakers, music, dancing, and a singing of the Canadian national anthem. There were also tables set up to serve free food and drinks to protesters.
The number of protesters dropped after last weekend, the first weekend of the Freedom Convoy demonstration, but many joined again this weekend.
Several other large protests were held on Feb. 5 in provincial capitals around the country against COVID-19 mandates.
The convoy, which first began as a demonstration against the federal government’s vaccine mandate for cross-border truck drivers, has since evolved into a large movement against all COVID-19 restrictions and mandates.
The first convoy left the West Coast for Ottawa on Jan. 23, culminating in a large protest held in the nation’s capital on Jan. 29. Many protesters have remained in Ottawa, saying they will stay until the government lifts COVID-19 mandates.
Ahead of the Feb. 5 protest, Ottawa police chief Peter Sloly said police are implementing a “surge and contain strategy” to deal with the protesters. This includes sending 150 more police officers to the protest area in Ottawa’s downtown core, barricading the area with concrete and heavy-equipment barriers, as well as “increased efforts” by national, provincial, and local intelligence agencies to target those “who are funding/supporting/enabling unlawful and harmful activity” by protesters.
Keith Wilson, a lawyer with the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms who is representing the organizers of the protest, said the new measures by Ottawa police are similar to those used by oppressive regimes around the world.
“[Sloly] effectively announced that he is going to be taking away Canadians’ charter right of peaceful assembly and freedom of expression,” Wilson said in a video on Feb. 4.
Also on Feb. 4, GoFundMe said it is seizing the C$10 million (US$8 million) raised in donations to fund the trucker protest. The fundraising platform had been under pressure by political leaders and Ottawa police to remove the donation funding to the protesters. It had earlier released C$1 million to the organizers to be used for expenses such as fuel and food for the protesting truckers.
GoFundMe had initially said that donors had to request a refund, and the remaining funds would be donated to a charity verified by GoFundMe. But on Feb. 5 it said all donations will be automatically refunded.
The organizers have now set up an alternative donation site on GiveSendGo, which they say will ensure the money gets to the protesters to help cover costs.