Ottawa police investigate anti-vaccine protesters

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OTTAWA, Ontario – Police in Canada’s capital said Sunday they are investigating possible criminal charges after anti-vaccine protesters urinated on the National War Memorial, danced at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and used the statue of Canadian hero Terry Fox to display an anti-vaccine declaration.

Thousands of demonstrators gathered in Ottawa on Saturday to protest vaccination mandates, masks and lockdowns. Some traveled in convoys of trucks and parked in the streets around Parliament Hill, blocking traffic.

Many stayed on Sunday.

Ottawa police said officers are also investigating threatening behavior toward police and others.

“Several criminal investigations are ongoing regarding the desecration of the National War Memorial/Statue of Terry Fox,” Ottawa police said.

Some protesters stationed on the grounds of the National War Memorial and others carried signs and flags with swastikas, drawing widespread condemnation.

The statue of Fox, a national hero who lost a leg to bone cancer as a youngster and then embarked on a fundraising hike across Canada in 1980, was draped in an upside-down Canadian flag with a sign that read ‘Freedom of Warrant’.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau retweeted a statement from the Terry Fox Foundation that “Terry believed in science and gave his life to help others.”

Canada has one of the highest vaccination rates in the world. Trudeau said Canadians are not represented by this “very disturbing, small but very vocal minority of Canadians who attack science, government, society, mandates and public health advice.”

Deirdre Freiheit, president of the Shepherds of Good Hope, which runs a soup kitchen for the homeless in Ottawa, said several protesters showed up at the soup kitchen on Saturday and verbally assaulted staff and volunteers while demanding that they are served. She said some protesters had been given food to de-escalate the situation and that in future meals would only be given to those who needed them.

The convoy of truckers and others prompted police to prepare for the possibility of violence and to warn residents to avoid downtown. A mall and nearby liquor stores closed early Saturday and remained closed Sunday.

The protest was initially aimed at denouncing vaccination mandates for truckers crossing the Canada-US border, but the movement turned into a protest against various covid-19 related restrictions and the Trudeau government.

Sitting in his truck, Scott Ocelak said he intended to stay until Tuesday at the latest.

“Everyone is united and we just needed a spark, and that’s the spark we needed,” Ocelak said. “We’re all on board and we’re all here together. It’s the end of all terms for everyone.”

A new rule came into effect Jan. 15 requiring truckers entering Canada to be fully immunized against the coronavirus. The United States has imposed the same requirement on truckers entering that country.

The Canadian Trucking Alliance said many of the protesters had no connection to the trucking industry, adding that they had a separate agenda to push. The alliance notes that the vast majority of drivers are vaccinated.

“People are losing their jobs because they don’t want to get the vaccine. I don’t want the vaccine,” said Eric Simmons, who came from Oshawa, Ont.

Some opposition Conservative lawmakers served coffee to protesters, and Conservative Party leader Erin O’Toole met with truckers. The protest also drew support from former US President Donald Trump.

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