Thousands Protest Vaccination Mandates in Canada, Further Angering

TORONTO/OTTAWA, Feb 5 (Reuters) – Thousands protested in Canadian cities, including the financial hub of Toronto, on Saturday as mostly peaceful but vocal protests against vaccination mandates spread from Ottawa , the capital.

The “Freedom Convoy” began as a movement against a Canadian requirement for vaccines for cross-border truckers, but turned into a rallying point against public health measures and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government.

“We’re all fed up with the warrants, the intimidation, living in one big prison,” said Robert, a Toronto protester who did not give his last name. “We just want to get back to normal without having to take the poison they call vaccines into our veins.”

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Protesters have shut down downtown Ottawa for the past eight days, with some participants waving Confederate or Nazi flags and some saying they want to dissolve the Government of Canada.

“Protesters in Ottawa have made their point. The whole country has heard their point,” said Transportation Minister Omar Alghabra, who urged protesters to “go home and engage elected officials.” .

Ottawa police said hate crime charges have been laid against four people and they are investigating threats against public figures in conjunction with the US Federal Bureau of Investigation.

The well-organized blockade, which police say relied in part on funding from sympathizers in the United States, saw protesters bring in portable saunas on Saturday to combat freezing temperatures.

A man rode through the area on horseback, carrying a Trump flag, videos on social media showed. Former U.S. President Donald Trump has spoken out in favor of truckers against “the tough politics of far-left madman Justin Trudeau who destroyed Canada with senseless COVID mandates.”

GoFundMe removed Freedom Convoy’s donation page on Friday, saying it violated the platform’s terms of service for illegal activity. The group had raised approximately C$10.1 million.

The website originally said it would refund all requests made before February 19 and had funds remaining to verified charities, but on Saturday GoFundMe said it would automatically refund all donations.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk, who has previously criticized vaccination mandates, called GoFundMe “professional thieves”. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and other Republican lawmakers in the state have promised to investigate the California company over the move. Read more

About 5,000 people demonstrated in Ottawa, police said, while hundreds more gathered in Toronto, Canada’s largest city, and Quebec City, coinciding with the city’s annual winter carnival. Four people were injured in Manitoba after a pickup truck drove into a crowd on Friday night, police said.

In Toronto, about 500 health care workers and supporters rallied downtown to oppose the convoy of truckers, according to a Reuters witness.

Several Toronto healthcare workers said they received advice from their hospitals not to wear hospital scrubs in public in light of the protest.

“The idea that we somehow have to hide or be afraid of who we are and what we were doing, I think, is offensive and regrettable, and I think, a sad commentary on our society,” the doctor said. emergency doctor Raghu Venugopal to Reuters.

Some Ottawa residents, who have endured near-incessant horns, smashed windows and harassment for wearing masks themselves, criticized Ottawa police earlier this week for not doing more to end the blockade. A resident has filed a class action lawsuit against the convoy organizers, seeking up to $10 million in damages and an injunction to end the protests.

Ottawa police, who warned Friday against cracking down on the protest and hired more officers, don’t have enough resources to end the protests, the city’s police chief said Saturday. . Trudeau ruled out using troops against truckers in the capital earlier this week.

“This is a city under siege, this is a threat to democracy, this is a national insurrection, this is madness,” Chief Peter Sloly told a police services board meeting. “We did our best.”

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Additional reporting by Anna Mehler Paperny and Chris Helgren; Written by Amran Abocar; Editing by Andrea Ricci and Leslie Adler

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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