Convoy protesting COVID-19 restrictions gathers at B.C. Legislature again

Convoy protesting COVID-19 restrictions gathers at B.C. Legislature again
Anti-mandate protesters lined Belleville Street in downtown Victoria once again on Saturday (Feb. 5). Photo credit: Nicholas Pescod/CHEK News

Another weekend, another convoy against coronavirus restrictions in downtown Victoria.

More than a few hundred people gathered in front of the B.C. Legislature on Belleville Street on Saturday, where they waved flags and held signs demanding an end to current COVID-19 restrictions as passing cars and trucks honked their horns in support of their cause. A much smaller contingent of people showing support for health-care workers and vaccines was seen gathered on the north-side of Belleville Street.

The convoys and the protests that follow are part of the so-called Freedom Convoy that rolled into Ottawa two weeks ago and hasn’t left.

Although today’s (Feb. 5) protest was not as large as the previous two that have been held each Saturday since Jan. 29, there were still a sizable number of vehicles — many coming from other parts of the Island — honking their horns and driving around the Legislature.

Traffic was delayed along nearby Douglas Street but the Victoria Police Department said no roads were closed or blocked due to the convoy.

Honking began in downtown Victoria shortly before noon and lasted well throughout the day. There were also a number of people in the crowd, as has been the case in previous protests, holding signs showing their general dislike and distrust of not only the government but mainstream media and vaccines.

The convoy first began as a demand to end a federal government vaccine mandate for truckers returning to Canada but has since turned into a far broader protest against all other COVID-19 restrictions such as vaccine passports and mask mandates. The movement has seen a cross-section of people including alt-right groups and controversial figures. Even hate symbols have been seen in some rallies in Ottawa and Victoria.

Since the freedom convoy first began its march to Ottawa, numerous support convoys and protests have since sprouted up in cities across Canada. Protesters in recent days have begun blocking border crossing, including the Detroit-Windsor crossing, where hundreds of protesters are occupying a stretch of Huron Church Road near the Ambassador Bridge. They have also blocked the crossing at Coutts, Alta and attempted to block other crossings in British Columbia and Saskatchewan.

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The convoy movement — has also caught on globally, with similar convoys either taking place or being planned in France, the Netherlands, New Zealand, and other countries.

Paris police fired tear gas Saturday against a handful of demonstrators on the Champs-Elysees Avenue who defied a police order by taking part in a vehicle protest against virus restrictions — inspired by Canada’s horn-honking truckers.

In the Netherlands, dozens of trucks and other vehicles – ranging from tractors to a car towing a camping van – arrived in The Hague for a similar virus-related protest Saturday, blocking an entrance to the historic Dutch parliamentary complex.

But a threatened blockade of Paris failed to materialize Saturday, despite days of online organizing efforts.

RELATED: Convoy protesting vaccine mandates, restrictions descends on B.C. Legislature

Police set up checkpoints into the French capital on key roads and said they successfully stopped at least 500 vehicles from heading to the banned protest, but a few dozen vehicles were able to slip in and disrupt traffic on the boutique-lined Champs-Elysees. Authorities fired tear gas as they demanded that the demonstrators disperse, some of whom climbed onto their vehicles in the middle of the road to create chaos.

Protesters railing against the vaccination pass that France requires to enter restaurants and many other venues have converged in recent days toward Paris from the north, south, east and west, waving and honking at onlookers as they drove by. Some convoys sought to avoid police detection by travelling on local roads instead of the major highways leading into the capital.

In the Dutch protest, protesters on foot joined the truckers, carrying a banner emblazoned with the Dutch words “Love & freedom, no dictatorship.” Police urged the protesters to move to a nearby park and warned the public about traffic problems.

Online chat groups, meanwhile, are encouraging French and Dutch protesters to join an attempted blockade convoy on Monday in Brussels, capital of Belgium and the 27-nation European Union.

Belgian federal police were urging people to avoid Brussels on Monday, including commuters, and said all vehicles coming to demonstrate will be escorted to a giant parking lot north of town where a protest will be authorized.

Anti-mandate protesters lined Belleville Street in downtown Victoria once again on Saturday (Feb. 5). Photo credit: Nicholas Pescod/CHEK News

Photo credit: Nicholas Pescod/CHEK News

Photo credit: Nicholas Pescod/CHEK News

Photo credit: Nicholas Pescod/CHEK News

With files from the Associated Press and the Canadian Press

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Nicholas PescodNicholas Pescod

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