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With more so-called “freedom” demonstrations planned for Canada Day weekend, residents in Ottawa’s Centretown neighbourhood are hopeful there will be no lingering disruption from protesters this summer.

Coleman and Susan, Centretown residents who declined to give their last names, depend on the Ottawa library’s main branch for everyday computer access. When neighbourhood libraries were forced to close after protesters rolled into Ottawa to oppose COVID-19 restrictions in late January, their normal routines were upended.

Coleman, who says he experienced some racial abuse over the month-long occupation, told Canada’s National Observer he couldn’t submit important documents without library access. Susan, who has a disability, says the rerouting of public buses due to the protests increased her commute time during the cold winter months.

Wellington Street is blocked to vehicle traffic ahead of the long weekend demonstrations. Photo by Matteo Cimellaro/ Canada’s National Observer

Now, both Coleman and Susan are confused as to why demonstrations continue after many public health mandates have been lifted.

The original “freedom” demonstrations began as a protest against COVID-19 restrictions but quickly grew into a larger, anti-Trudeau occupation of the capital, at times marred by conspiracy theories and extremist elements, over the month protesters were in Ottawa.

At a press conference held over Zoom on Tuesday morning, interim Ottawa Police Chief Steve Bell and Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson were poised and assertive as they spoke about their ability to manage the upcoming protests alongside an influx of visitors attending the capital’s first Canada Day event in three years.

At the end of May, Canadian Heritage announced the July 1 celebrations would shift from their usual spot on Parliament Hill to Lebreton Flats for the first time in 50 years. Parliament Hill and the surrounding Centretown neighbourhood, which bore the brunt of last winter’s occupation, are already heavily policed in strategic locations as part of a zone closed to vehicles ahead of the long weekend.

A demonstrator at a security checkpoint on Parliament Hill. Photo by Matteo Cimellaro/ Canada’s National Observer

Police are preparing to manage the upcoming demonstrations, which protesters say will include a dance party on Parliament Hill, musical acts on the lawn of the Supreme Court and marches.

With another round of Freedom protests set to arrive in Ottawa on Canada Day, Centretown residents hope for a summer without disruption. #Ottawa #ProtestConvoy

Already, officers have been proactively discouraging protesters by placing fencing around the Supreme Court. A heavy police presence on Wellington Street, including security checkpoints to enter the Parliament Hill grounds, will remain until at least July 2.

Unlike the Rolling Thunder protests, which saw thousands of demonstrators arrive in and depart from the capital in the last weekend of April, the possibility of another occupation looms over local residents.

Some Canada Day demonstrators say they’ll remain in the city for the rest of the summer, The Canadian Press has reported. An organizer for Veterans for Freedom, one of the groups participating in the Ottawa demonstrations, says members plan to camp east of the city and hold events throughout the summer.

Ottawa police have created a perimeter around several downtown streets and bridges, including Wellington Street, making the area off-limits to vehicles.

Interim Chief Bell notes Ottawa police have the authority to remove encampments and stop attempts to occupy or set up structures. On Tuesday, Ottawa bylaw tweeted it had removed tables set up by demonstrators on Wellington Street.

“We will not, however, accept unlawful behaviour, we will not allow motor vehicle-based demonstrations in the motor-vehicle control zone,” Bell said at the press conference Tuesday. “Visitors and community members will see a significant police posture throughout the city.”

Bell said he had received resources from other police forces, including the RCMP, Ontario Provincial Police and other municipal forces. Ottawa police did not specify how many officers from other services will be deployed over the long weekend.

Even with increased police presence, Centretown resident Jonah Buist, who lived near Rideau Street during the occupation earlier this year, says he’s thankful vehicle blockades will curtail demonstrators but fears the nice weather means better camping conditions.

“I’m glad Wellington is closed off so they’re not able to get their photo shoots in or whatever,” Buist says.

“I think it’s optimistic to think they will be gone by the end of the weekend. But until Labour Day? I really hope not.”

— With files from Erika Ibrahim and Marie Woolf from The Canadian Press

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A day that used to be celebrated and happy has now turned to protest and extremism. With police being there to secure the venue rather than be helpful and happy to assist those attending. It is a very sad direction which we have turned and it will take all of us to correct it not just law enforcement and government.
We can all do our part to make it the country we remember. It use to be on my list of things to do to visit Ottawa for Canada Day, I hope i can wait it out.

I feel that the wonderful annual Canada Day Celebrations have been stolen from my city by some extremists! I am a former refugee who grew up in Ottawa and celebrated Canada Day with my parents then later with my kids and more recently with my grandkids. We always looked forward to Canada Day!
We had such a sense of community and a sense of pride in our country as we were surrounded by crowds as the downtown core was closed to traffic! . What fun it used to be joining in all the happy families, wearing red and white and waiting for the flyover by the Snowbirds, walking by Parliament hill, watching the street performers and the fireworks at night.
This time we will stay away from the central core as we don’t want to be caught up in any possible altercations.
(And I still don’t understand what freedom these people think we lack in Canada ! )

If the members of the so-called "freedom convoy" really want to make their point about the "dictatorship " of Justin Trudeau, they should have the courage to make their protest in Red Square in Moscow. Vladimir Putin would teach them a thing or two about genuine dictatorship!

How sad that these anarchists, right-wing extremists and white supremacists have been able to appropriate the Canadian flag for their own childish purposes and pervert what it symbolized for the rest of us. Now, I can’t drive past a farm with the Canadian flag on a pole or see one flown from a porch without questioning the motive behind the act. Seeing a Canadian flag flown from the back of a pickup truck evokes for me an immediate emotional response of contempt, and I wonder about what so-called freedom they feel they have lost when considering conditions of those so much less fortunate living in conflict zones or true totalitarian regimes. For certain, they’re not patriots, and in my view, they might be Canadian only because it says so on their personal documents. This is one of the worst examples of childish temper-tantrum entitlement I’ve ever witnessed. Seriously folks, grow up!

I'd like to make clear that anarchists are a very different thing from these people. There are two kinds of anarchists: Traditional and coffee shop. And neither are involved in this stuff. Traditional anarchists believe in an egalitarian system of governance without rulers, vaguely socialist in nature but with much more decentralization and much less authority. Coffee shop anarchists have no real systemic political beliefs, but like wearing black and going to protests--but left wing protests, against corporations or militarism, not this nonsense.

-In popular use, one who seeks to overturn by violence all constituted forms and institutions of society and government, all law and order, and all rights of property, with no purpose of establishing any other system of order in the place of that destroyed; especially, such a person when actuated by mere lust of plunder.
-Any person who promotes disorder or excites revolt against an established rule, law, or custom. See anarch and nihilist.

Based on these explanations I submit above, respectfully, I do not agree with the leftist, socialist-leaning explanation you provide here. I think inciting revolt, chaos, and a advocating a general disregard for the laws Tofield the land, without regard to “left” or “right”, without anything viable to offer as an alternative, would qualify as anarchy. I sincerely hope things don’t devolve to the point where we end up debating the meaning of “domestic terrorism”.

Apologies (and most especially to the folks of Tofield), the word “Tofield” should not appear at all… the reference was to “laws of the land”. Spellcheck strikes again.

Apologies (and most especially to the folks of Tofield), the word “Tofield” should not appear at all… the reference was to “laws of the land”. Spellcheck strikes again.

So if there are no vaccine mandates to protest, what will this one be about? I'm betting anti-abortion is going to be prominent. The idea will be that you have to control women's bodies . . . for FREEDOM! There may be some side stuff about stopping people from transitioning, wearing drag or being gay, for FREEDOM!

The headline of this article continues to call the white supremacy/anti-democracy gatherings in
Ottawa "Freedom" marches. This is a misleading, politically dangerous term to
use for people who want to overthrow the Canadian government by anti-democratic
means, people associated with violent far right movements etc. No one
carrying F Trudeau and Nazi flags is fighting for freedom. By associating
these people with freedom, the media buys in to their self-branding and
continues to elevate their ideas to legitimacy.
I think it's time for change. Call them what they are.
I think you are the outlet to take the lead on this.