OTTAWA, Ontario — Police in Canada’s capital are investigating possible criminal charges after anti-vaccine protesters urinated on the National War Memorial, danced on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and used the statue of Canadian hero Terry Fox to display an anti-vaccine statement.
Thousands of protesters gathered in Ottawa Saturday to protest vaccine mandates, masks and lockdowns. Some travelled in truck convoys and parked on the streets around Parliament Hill, blocking traffic.
Many, including some American truckers, remained on Sunday.
Ottawa Police said officers are also investigating threatening behavior to police and others.
“Several criminal investigations are underway in relation the desecration of the National War Memorial/Terry Fox statue,” Ottawa police said.
Some demonstrators parked on the grounds of the National War Memorial and others carried signs and flags with swastikas, sparking widespread condemnation.
The statue of Fox, a national hero who lost a leg to bone cancer as a youngster, then set off in 1980 on a fundraising trek across Canada, was draped with a upside down Canadian flag with a sign that said “mandate freedom.”
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau retweeted a statement from The Terry Fox Foundation that said “Terry believed in science and gave his life to help others.”
Canada has one of the highest vaccination rates in the world. Trudeau has said Canadians are not represented by this “very troubling, small but very vocal minority of Canadians who are lashing out at science, at government, at society, at mandates and public health advice.”
Deirdre Freiheit, president of the Shepherds of Good Hope, who run a soup kitchen for the homeless in Ottawa, said several protesters showed up at the soup kitchen on Saturday and verbally abused staff and volunteers while demanding they be served. She said some protesters were given food to defuse the situation, and going forward meals will only be given to those who need them.
The convoy of truckers and others prompted police to prepare for the possibility of violence and warn residents to avoid downtown. A nearby mall and liquor stores closed early on Saturday and remained closed Sunday.
The demonstration was initially aimed at denouncing vaccine mandates for truck drivers crossing the Canada-U.S. border, but the movement has morphed into a protest against a variety of COVID-19 restrictions and Trudeau’s government.
Sitting in his truck, Scott Ocelak said he planned to stay until Tuesday at the latest.
“Everyone’s united and we just needed a spark, and this is the spark that we needed,” Ocelak said. “We’re all on board and we’re all here together. It’s end all mandates for everybody.”
A new rule took effect Jan. 15 requiring truckers entering Canada be fully immunized against the coronavirus. The United States has imposed the same requirement on truckers entering that country.
The Canadian Trucking Alliance said a great number of the protesters had no connection to the trucking industry, adding they have a separate agenda to push. The alliance notes 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 drove in from Oshawa, Ontario.
Some opposition Conservative lawmakers served coffee to the protesters and Conservative party leader Erin O’Toole met with some truckers. The protest also attracted support from former U.S. President Donald Trump.
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