The sound of honking horns and people demanding an end to coronavirus pandemic mandates and restrictions could continue to be heard in some Canadian cities on Sunday, but not so much in Victoria.
British Columbia’s capital city was largely quiet on Sunday, with just a small group gathering out front of the provincial legislature — a stark contrast from Saturday afternoon when a large crowd upset about COVID-19 mandates gathered out front.
The protests are part of the so-called Freedom Convoy that rolled into Ottawa last weekend. The convoy, which first began as a demand to end a federal government vaccine mandate for truckers returning to Canada, has morphed into a much broader protest against all other COVID-19 restrictions. It has also attracted people with racist ideologies and extreme far-right views.
Throughout Saturday cars and trucks could be heard honking while a sizeable crowd of people — smaller than the previous week’s protest — stood cheering and waving flags along Belleville Street, with many of those participating coming from other parts of Vancouver Island. Those protesters were met by counter-protesters in support of vaccines, healthcare workers and other pandemic-related measures.
Some counter-protesters also blocked stretches of highway and roads in and around Victoria on Saturday. One elderly woman was removed from the middle of Douglas Street by police after she appeared to be intentionally blocking the convoy’s route while another man was asked to leave by Saanich Police after he briefly blocked traffic on the Tillicum overpass.
“My first impression was to actually interfere with the convoy protest, but I am a 50/50 person. I am fully vaccinated. I support 100 per cent, fighting for what you believe in and protesting, but I do go against the way they do that with the horns, it is very excessive, and it goes against the motor vehicle act,” said Alex Thurlborn, who blocked traffic on Tillicum overpass on Saturday for 20 minutes.
Organizers of the Victoria protest had indicated over Zello — a “walkie-talkie” style app that is being used as the primary source of communication — that some protesters planned to remain throughout the night Saturday but by 10 p.m. very few if any remained. On Sunday morning, there was no one out front of the Legislature, but by 2 p.m. around 20 or so could be seen protesting along Belleville Street.
“So far there hasn’t been any kind of a permanent setup or a lockdown or anything like that,” said Nathan Moyer, an anti-vaccine mandate protester who attended Sunday’s small gathering.
The Victoria Police Department said there were no major incidents reported Saturday and no arrests made related to the protest.
Eva MacLennan, barista at Discovery Coffee near the B.C. Legislature, said there were a few altercations at the coffee shop involving people not wanting to wear masks, wearing them incorrectly and being asked to show their vaccine passport.
“There were a few altercations. Some people getting upset [when they were asked] if they can put their mask over their nose, asking if they want to sit down and take off their mask, they need to show a vaccine passport, that just made a couple of people very upset,” said MacLennan, noting that it was nothing like the weekend before when staff faced unrelenting verbal abuse from a handful of patrons.
Some also took to social media, including a local journalist, to report that they had been harassed by protesters. Similar incidents have been reported by other journalists covering protests in cities across the country.
While Victoria wasn’t filled with endless honking on Sunday, protests continued in other Canadian cities including Halifax, Toronto and Sarnia, Ont., where events have led to delays at the Canada-U.S. border crossing.
In Ottawa, officials estimate 500 heavy vehicles associated with the convoy were occupying the city’s downtown core. The ongoing occupation has prompted the city to declare a state of emergency, saying in a press release that the decision reflects the “serious danger and threat to the safety and security of residents” from protesters encamped through much of the downtown core.
Earlier today, Ottawa Police announced that people will no longer be allowed to bring supplies to the convoy in the city.
— Ottawa Police (@OttawaPolice) February 6, 2022
Police in the nation’s capital are also conducting criminal investigations into 50 alleged incidents connected to the protest. Ottawa police say 11 of those alleged offences were hate crimes and that four people are now facing charges.
As for future protests in Victoria, Moyer told CHEK News that one is planned for out front of the B.C. Legislature on Tuesday around noon, coinciding with the throne speech.
“Big big convoy and as far as I know, we’ll be circulating the legislature again and trying to get our message across that we want the mandates to end,” Moyer said.
With files from the Canadian Press