The sound of blaring truck horns has been replaced by revving engines in the Canadian capital, still blockaded by truckers who appear to be settling in for the long haul.
Between and around the trucks that have halted city traffic, protesters have erected tents, barbecues, bales of hay for warmth and comfort. Children in snowsuits played with large plastic blocks in what looked like a makeshift outdoor kindergarten.
What started as a protest against mandatory vaccinations for truckers in order to cross the border into the United States, has grown into broader dissent against the Liberal government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and what is perceived as a tightening of individual rights and freedoms, highlighting the anti-vaccination movement.
Ottawa Canada, Trucker ProtestTwo trucks block the entrance to Rideau street, one of the main commercial streets of downtown Ottawa [Roger Lemoyne/Al Jazeera]
The truckers have effectively shut down a swathe of Ottawa’s city centre, some 1.5km (0.93 miles) long, dubbed the Red Zone by Ottawa Police, where most businesses and office buildings remain closed. This section of the city is home to the seat of government, museums, office buildings and prime business real estate.
The number of protesters has dwindled to a few thousand in the Canadian capital, but police estimate more than four hundred trucks and other vehicles remained parked in the middle of roads, crisscrossing intersections, or within inches of police cruisers that delineate the Red Zone.
The hundreds of police officers deployed around the city, criticised at first for inaction, had issued more than 1,300 tickets and arrested 23 by Wednesday, according to part of the Ottawa police website dedicated to the demonstration. A Monday court injunction had already halted excruciatingly loud truck horn blasts, replaced by the regular revving of truck engines.
“We can stay here for months if we want,” said Harold Jonker, a 49-year-old trucker from the Niagara region, a five-hour drive from Ottawa.
“Our goal is pretty simple: remove all lockdowns and mandatory vaccination and bring the freedoms to this country. What we didn’t realise was how huge the support would be” said Jonker.https://www.reddit.com/r/ufc271fitelive/
Trucker Leo Schmidt told Al Jazeera he was not sure what to expect when he drove with the convoy from Steinbach, Alberta to Ottawa, more than 3,000 kilometres (1,864 miles).