The anti-vax protest that has brought Ottawa to a standstill for more than a week is spreading across Canada amid government pleas for the rallies to end and massive support by Donald Trump supporters in the US.
Thousands took to the streets in a slather of Canadian cities as rallies spread from the national capital on Saturday in what were mostly peaceful but noisy protests against vaccine mandates .
The “Freedom Convoy” began as a movement against a Canadian vaccine requirement for cross-border truck drivers, but has turned into a rallying point against public health measures and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government.
“We’re all sick and tired of the mandates, of the intimidation, of living in one big prison,” said Robert, a Toronto protester who did not give his last name.
“We just want to go back to normal without having to take into our veins the poison which they call vaccines.”
Mr Trudeau has not been seen in public since thousands of truck drivers and their rigs began descending on Ottawa.
His office says the triple-vaccinated Prime Minister has caught COVID and has been moved with his family to an undisclosed location due to fears for his security.
Ottawa’s eight-day siege
Protesters have shut down downtown Ottawa for the past eight days, with some participants waving Confederate or Nazi flags and others angrily demanding the dissolution of Canada’s government.
Transport Minister Omar Alghabra urged demonstrators to “go home and engage elected officials”.
“The protesters in Ottawa have made their point. The entire country heard their point,” he said.
Ottawa police said hate crime charges were laid against four people and they were investigating threats against public figures jointly with the US Federal Bureau of Investigation.
The well-organised blockade, which police say has relied partly on funding from sympathisers in the United States, saw protesters bring in portable saunas on Saturday to combat frigid temperatures.
One man rode through the area on horseback, carrying a Trump flag, social media videos showed.
Another shot of TRUMP 2024 on horseback in Ottawa during *peaceful* demonstrations today. pic.twitter.com/nkPUDTZbcw
— Suburban Black Man 🇺🇸 (@goodblackdude) February 6, 2022
Former US president Donald Trump has spoken out in support of the truck drivers against “the harsh policies of far-left lunatic Justin Trudeau who has destroyed Canada with insane COVID mandates”.
GoFundMe took down the Freedom Convoy’s donation page on Friday, saying it violated the platform’s terms of service due to unlawful activity.
The group had raised about $C10.1 million ($A11.2 million) when the donated funds were frozen.
About 5000 people demonstrated in Ottawa, police said, while hundreds more gathered in Toronto, Canada’s biggest city, and Quebec City, coinciding with the city’s annual winter carnival.
Four people were injured in Manitoba after a ute drove into a crowd late on Friday, police said.