By Julio Cesar Rivas
Ottawa, Feb 9 (EFE).- The protest by the anti-vax movement that on Jan. 29 blockaded central Ottawa continues to grow with the appearance in recent hours of new demonstrators’ camps in the Canadian capital while another group is maintaining the blockade of one of the country’s main economic arteries.
The protesters – including thousands of truckers – are opposing a Canadian mandate requiring drivers entering Canada to be fully vaccinated against Covid or abide by testing and quarantine requirements.
The blockade of the Ambassador Bridge, the main commercial crossing point between Canada and the United States is being maintained for the third consecutive day by another group of truckers in the city of Windsor, some 750 kilometers (465 miles) southwest of Ottawa, and is causing serious problems for the transport of assorted goods.
Drews Dilkens, the mayor of Windsor, which lies just across the Canadian border from Detroit, Michigan, on Wednesday said that between 50 and 75 big rig trucks and about 100 demonstrators were blocking access to the bridge over which each day thousands of vehicles cross, most of them trucks carrying all sorts of merchandise.
Windsor authorities have requested up to 100 officers from other police forces, including from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and other nearby cities, to try and break up the protest.
During a press conference on Wedneday, Dilkens admitted that the Windsor police force alone was not up to the task of getting control of the protest, stating that many of the demonstrators blocking the bridge are extremely committed to the cause in which they believe.
Dilkens added that, given this situation, things could get “very dangerous” for the police and the general public.
In Ottawa, authorities expressed similar sentiments of frustration and impotence after protests with the so-called “Freedom Convoy” have been occupying the downtown area for the past 12 days, with thousands of trucks and between 10,000 and 15,000 demonstrators flooding into the capital starting on Jan. 29.
Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson and other top officials said on Wednesday that despite the attempts of local authorities to dislodge the people who are occupying the area around the Canadian Parliament, the demonstators have created new campsites in other parts of the city from which they are providing supplies to the truckers who are surrounding the legislature.
At an Ottawa city council meeting on Wednesday, city officials acknowledged that they did not have the ability to prevent the arrival of new demonstrators although they were taking measures to try and dissuade them, including increasing fines for violations of municipal ordinances.
Canadian authorities at all levels have been surprised by the level of organization and the determination of the anti-vax demonstrators, along with the radical groups that are supporting them.
Watson told EFE at a press conference that, on the one hand, authorities see organization among the protesters but, on the other, there is also disorganization, with some of the protesters’ press conferences looking like a “Monty Python” show, referring to the popular British comedy show.
The Ottawa mayor said that the demonstrators want to sit down and negotiate with the country’s governor general, Mary Simon, who is carrying out the duties of head of state, or with the leaders of national political parties, adding that it seems as if they are living in a “parallel universe” making senseless demands and making themselves look ridiculous.
But the protest organizers at present are not ready to abandon their activities and remove from downtown Ottawa the more than 400 trucks that have been parked around Parliament.
On Tuesday night, one of the proclaimed leaders of the protest, Chris Barber, posted a video online in which he made fun of the actions of the authorities to try and get the protesters out of the capital and announced that he and his colleagues were ready to leave Ottawa and head to Toronto in their trucks.
A few hours later, he admitted that this semi-threat was a joke to confuse the authorities and that they were not intending to move from their current location.
At present, Ottawa authorities are trusting that increasing the fines for violations such as lighting bonfires at night to keep warm and driving their vehicles around for hours are starting to have an effect on the demonstrators’ morale.
Also on Wednesday, Ottawa police suggested that those demonstrators who are at the protest with their children could lose custody of the minors, this coming a few hours after capital police chief Peter Sloly said that one of the reasons his officers have not been deployed in depth to end the protest is the presence of some 100 kids among the blockaders.
On Wednesday, the capital police announced that they will work with the appropriate agencies to ensure the well-being of any children among the protesters after “concerns” about them arose.