Protesters show no sign of rolling off as Ottawa residents brace for more disruption

Protesters staying put

UPDATE 5:10 p.m.

Ottawa police have pegged the cost of policing the protests against COVID-19 measures at $800,000 per day.

They say officers have avoided ticketing and towing vehicles in an attempt to stave off confrontations -- an effort they say has not been entirely successful.

The police service says officers have frequently needed to de-escalate confrontations.

Police say they're trying to clear protesters' vehicles out safely, but they know some plan to stay.

They continue to urge Ottawa residents to stay out of the downtown area if possible.

UPDATE 3 p.m.

Ottawa's largest school board says classes across the city will take place in-person on Monday except at one school near the site of massive protests that have brought the downtown core to a virtual standstill.

The Ottawa-Carleton District School Board issued a statement saying classes at Centennial Public School will be held online, adding teachers or the school principal will contact families with more information.

The board is urging parents to allow extra travel time in light of major traffic disruptions stemming from the protests, which are expected to stretch into a third day on Monday.

The statement also condemned swastikas, confederate flags and similar symbols that were seen during the weekend demonstrations.

The board says such images "promote hate, instill fear and are intolerable," adding that resources are available for parents fielding questions about the imagery from their children.

UPDATE 1:30 p.m.

The organizers of the anti-vaccine protest that has gripped Ottawa’s downtown say they have more demonstrations planned for the capital on Monday.

A statement on the Canada Unity website says speeches will take place at Confederation Park, just east of the parliamentary precinct.

The website also suggests the demonstrators plan to arrive at shopping centres en masse without masks to flout public health rules, throw loud block parties, and pressure the media.

Several demonstrators said Sunday that they intend to leave at the end of the day, but others have sworn to stay “as long as it takes.”

UPDATE: 11:05 a.m.

The president and CEO of Shepherds of Good Hope says donations are pouring in after protesters allegedly harassed staff at an Ottawa soup kitchen.

Deirdre Freiheit says the rally against COVID-19 restrictions and the Liberal government roiling the capital's downtown has disrupted social services and blocked road access to their shelter.

Freiheit says several protesters showed up at the soup kitchen on Saturday and allegedly verbally abused staff and volunteers while demanding they be served.

She says some protesters were given food to defuse the situation, and going forward meals will only be given to those who need them.

"One member of our shelter community was assaulted by protesters," the organization posted on Twitter. "A security guard went to his aid and was threatened and called racial slurs."

She says since Shepherds of Good Hope tweeted about the incident, the organization has been overwhelmed with tens of thousands of dollars in donations.

UPDATE: 9:15 a.m.

Police in Ottawa say several criminal investigations are underway in relation to the ongoing demonstration on Parliament Hill against vaccine mandates and COVID-19 restrictions.

The Ottawa Police Service says its investigating the desecration of the National War Memorial and the Terry Fox statue.

It's also investigating what it describes as "threatening, illegal and intimidating behaviour" by protesters towards the police, city workers and other individuals as well as damage to a city vehicle.

The announcement on Twitter comes after protesters drew condemnation for fastening an inverted Canadian flag and anti-vaccine sign to a statue of Terry Fox.

Others were seen jumping on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and the National War Memorial.

Ottawa police say illegal behaviour "will not be tolerated and will be fully investigated."

As protesters gear up for their second full day, a random symphony of truck horns is blaring across downtown Ottawa Sunday morning .

But the effects of the ongoing demonstration are being felt far beyond Parliament Hill.

Several city bus routes have been redirected to avoid the area around the Hill.

The nearby Rideau Centre shopping mall remains closed after shutting down early on Saturday.

The Ottawa Police Service says crowds and vehicles clogged the capital's downtown core through the night as a protest of COVID-19 restrictions and the federal Liberal government extends into its second day.

The force says officers encountered several "challenges" with demonstrators, including trucks sporadically blocking off access to roads, but the incidents were resolved with no arrests.

Police say they continue to monitor the demonstration with a focus on "keeping the peace," maintaining access to emergency lanes and addressing any "threatening high-risk behaviour."

They say national monuments will be protected and barricades are installed to block vehicles from accessing the path in front of the National War Memorial.

Public officials condemned the "desecration" of monuments to Canadian heroes after some protesters were seen jumping on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier on Saturday.

ORIGINAL: 7:05 a.m.

Residents of the national capital are again being told to avoid travelling downtown as a convoy of trucks and cars snarl traffic protesting government-imposed vaccine mandates and COVID-19 restrictions.

The truck traffic in the city's core by Parliament Hill has made many streets downtown impassable to vehicles, police say.

Other streets have been closed and local police say they are working to mitigate the impacts of the gridlock on residents and businesses downtown.

It's not clear when the convoy of vehicles plans to end their park-in protest as some protesters have vowed not to move until all their demands are met.

Sitting in his truck, Scott Ocelak said he was warned he was locked into his spot until Sunday, but planned to stay until Tuesday at the latest.

The demonstration was initially aimed at denouncing vaccine mandates for truck drivers crossing the Canada-U.S. border, but the movement has morphed into a protest against a variety of COVID-19 restrictions and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's government.

"Everyone's united and we just needed a spark, and this is the spark that we needed," Ocelak said Saturday. "We're all on board and we're all here together. It's end all mandates for everybody."

A memo being pushed by Canada Unity, the group that mainly planned the convoy, unlawfully demands Gov. Gen. Mary Simon and the Senate force federal and provincial governments to lift all COVID-19 restrictions, including vaccine mandates. It does not mention truckers, and was initially sent to the Senate and Simon on Dec. 11.

"They need to listen and they say they're not going to listen, they're not going to change," said Eric Simmons, who drove in from Oshawa, Ont., to see the protest up close.

"People are losing their jobs because they don't want to get the vaccine. I don't want the vaccine."

The vast majority of truck drivers are vaccinated. The Canadian Trucking Alliance has previously estimated about 10 per cent of drivers were affected when vaccinations became a requirement to cross the Canada-U.S. border this month.

The mood Saturday was largely peaceful and jovial, with the smell of marijuana wafting alongside an airing of conspiracy theories about vaccines themselves. Police says there were no incidents of violence or injuries reported on Saturday, but are planning to maintain a heavy presence Sunday.

Events Saturday were tarred by protestors who jumped on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, and others who fastened an inverted Canadian flag and anti-vaccine sign to a statue of Terry Fox. Both actions generated vocal denunciations.

Condemnations also poured in from federal politicians of all stripes against protesters seen carrying Confederate flags, as well as flags and signs bearing Nazi symbols and slogans.

One such Nazi image was captured in the background of a television interview with Conservative MP Michael Cooper.

The mayors of the two towns overlapping his Alberta riding, Edmonton Mayor Amarjeet Sohi and St. Albert Mayor Cathy Heron, in a joint statement called on Cooper to apologize for "his behaviour and lack of judgment."

In a statement late Saturday, Cooper said he didn't know someone "with whom I'm not associated" was flying a Canadian flag with a swastika drawn on it "some distance behind my back" as he did a television interview.

He said he condemns Nazism and said whoever flew the flag with the symbol "should be eternally ashamed," adding that the person didn't represent those who acted responsibly whom Cooper supported.

Fellow Alberta Conservative Damien Kurek was also at the protest Saturday and in a tweet condemned "any signs of hate, antisemitism, or disrespect." He wrote that many protestors he spoke with believed those signs "are disgraceful and don’t represent those involved."

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