TORONTO — A trucker-led convoy rolled into the downtown of Canada’s largest city on Saturday joining multiple protests taking place across the country over COVID-19 vaccine mandates and other health measures.
Truckers blasted their horns as throngs of protesters greeted them and the much larger convoy of passenger vehicles that overwhelmed several blocks of downtown Toronto. Some climbed onto the rigs and a few even danced.
Organizers had hoped the convoy would reach Queens Park, home to the Ontario provincial government. But a heavy police presence and blockades prevented that from happening.
“The truckers need your help,” a man yelled through a portable loudspeaker as he called on protesters to help remove the barricades.
Police have made at least one arrest in connection with the protest. The Toronto Police Service, meanwhile, reported in a tweet that paramedic responders were delayed because of protesters and vehicles blocking the road.
Man charged after Jeep drives through crowd of protesters in Winnipeg
The Toronto convoy was one of the multiple protests taking place across Canada, loosely connected to the Freedom Convoy in the nation’s capital, Ottawa. Some have turned violent.
In Winnipeg, Manitoba, police arrested a man whom they alleged drove a Jeep through crowd of convoy protesters on Friday, injuring four people. Police said three of victims sustained minor injuries, while a fourth was treated a hospital and released.
David Alexander Zegarac, 42, is facing multiple charges including assault with weapon in connection with incident. Police are investigating the attack and the motive.
“What I can tell you here is that comments were made by the accused that tends to suggest that this was not specially about the mandates,” Winnipeg police Const. Rob Carver said during a news conference on Saturday.
In Ottawa, hundreds of trucks and other vehicles have remained a week after the convoy arrived amid growing calls for their departure by officials and the move by GoFundMe on Friday to shut down its fundraiser. On Sunday, police said they may start arresting people providing material support to protesters including fuel.
Truckers aren’t just protesting the mandates
Protesters demands have expanded far beyond the cross-border truckers affected by vaccine mandates implemented by the Canadian and U.S. governments in January. Drivers joining the Toronto convoy say they were protesting for multiple reasons.
“We’re out here for everybody’s rights,” said a driver who identified himself as Roadhammer.
Roadhammer said the vaccine mandate cost him his job as a cross-border driver. He now runs local.
Stephen Webster, a cross-border owner-operator, said he is fully vaccinated against COVID-19. He joined the convoy because of other grievances with the government of Ontario Premier Doug Ford, including funding cuts to healthcare and homeless services.
“I got three shots, but I think people should have a choice,” he said. “I’m here for other reasons like a lot of people are. A lot of people are pissed off at the Ford government.”
The protests meanwhile, remain controversial in the Canadian trucking industry, where the vast majority of drivers are vaccinated. Carriers, trucking organizations and individual drivers have come out against them, partially in light of incidents in Ottawa including the display of Nazi flags.
“I’ll be crossing the border again this weekend. Picking up freight going to western Canada,” trucker Al Goodhall tweeted on Friday. “Most truckers will be doing the same thing as me. The protest in Ottawa is self indulgent. Our freedoms flow from our ability to care for one another not tear each other down.”