What’s it like to live just out of earshot of the protest in Ottawa? One reader shares his experience…
by Stewart Kerr – submitted
As the throngs of protesters continue to descend upon Ottawa this weekend I took the opportunity to witness the crowds and blocked off streets for myself. The trucker protest has been the most gripping event to happen in Ottawa since moving here from Saskatchewan 3 years ago. Residing in Sandy Hills Ottawa, I am in close proximity to the downtown protests in front of Parliament but far enough away to avoid the horn honking. I spent many hours of my Saturday and Sunday walking around the area to get a feel for what is happening on an hourly basis.
As I walk toward Parliament the first thing I can see is the blocked off corner of Rideau Street and Sussex Drive. Here there is a small stage set up on the back of a semis truck and trailer with a complete sound system. This location is the scene of the first semis truck blocked intersection with a protester dance party, sports activities and honking. It is the first sign that these semis from across Canada, as they fly provincial flags from Quebec, Saskatchewan, Alberta and other provinces. The area was packed for most of Saturday and Sunday with only pedestrians able to get through and even that is a challenge.
As I continue my walk down Rideau Street towards the Parliament buildings, I come upon the National War Memorial. The once fenced off memorial is now being patrolled by volunteer military veterans supporting the convoy. I stopped to speak with one of the volunteers who is a former infantry soldier with the Canadian Forces who is proud to be one of many veteran volunteers now patrolling the monument 24/7 while the protest continues. As I get closer to the Parliament I pass a few cop cars and police in groups of eight patrolling the area. I say a quick hello and they are very responsive giving a return hello. They are present to ensure the safety of the city and the protest in case of an emergency. There service is appreciated by the protesters as I over hear a group of protesters wearing Canada flags as capes thank them for their service. The police have been well respected by the protesters and the police will return a smile when told their work is appreciated.
I continue down Rideau Street to in front of the Parliament buildings where the main part of the protest is set up. I am quickly met with crowds of people similar to what you would see at a Rider game waiting to get into the stadium. It is the loudest part of the city with eight semi trucks parked on the intersections separated by a stage set up on a semi crane parked in the middle. This is ground zero at Wellington and Metcalfe where the Terry Fox statue is found and the tourist entrance into the Parliament grounds. Here the protest is the loudest with speakers, music and semi-truck honking.
Some businesses remain open and people without masks can be seen walking around open stores and souvenir shops. Other businesses remain closed with some open restaurants demanding customers provide proof of vaccination and worn masks. Protesters that are here for the long haul have put up tents, wooden shacks, inflatable play structures, and street hockey tournaments to take a break from the protesting. It is a welcome set up for many protesters who have arrived with their entire family. The Canadian flag is by far the most popular sight at the protest, but Quebec, Saskatchewan, Alberta, British Columbia and even Newfoundland flags are waving from semis and pedestrians.
Walking east and south from the Parliament area it begins to show the significant radius of the road blockades. The line of semi-trucks, pickup trucks and now tractors continues on for 6 to 7 blocks in all directions from the intersection of Wellington and Metcalfe. The honking is still present and the diversity of the crowd still apparent. Provincial and Canada flags are strapped to the sides of Semis and the scale of the protest hits home even more with the sight of a fully deployed crane outrigger semi, semis trailers, and tractors with attached trailers. The blocked off areas are too far for me to walk but they go on with only a few single lanes open for emergency vehicles. The area of downtown Ottawa, the protests are located in is the sight of many office buildings and some of the most expensive condos and apartments in Ottawa. Outside of the main area it is quieter and less active but still a significant police and trucker’s presents.
As an Ottawa resident, I have not felt threatened by the protest despite what is stated by the media. Counter protesters upset by the excessive honking show up every once in a while but they are usually respected by the protest. The Canadian media is the only presence met with hostile remarks. The protesters dislike their coverage, which they say is sensationalist, and have little respect for them.
As an Ottawa resident, I can confirm that downtown Ottawa remains safe and respectful to Ottawa residents. I live just outside the range of the honking and noise but I can walk to the protest in 10 minutes. I can access grocery stores freely, and go to my fitness gym on a daily basis. The presents of large trucks all parked in a row is an intense situation but having grown up in Saskatchewan it is a sight that I have seen before. The Ottawa city police have done a great job monitoring the situation, provide regular updates, and information to the public while rightfully calling the situation highly volatile. I hope and expect to see a peaceful resolution to the situation.
Stewart Kerr was raised in Regina Saskatchewan and obtained a degree from the University of Regina. He has resided and worked in Ottawa Ontario for 3 years. He is the younger brother of Prince Albert Daily Herald editor Jason Kerr.