An arrest made as the trucker convoy protest arrives in Toronto

As a convoy of trucks converged in downtown Toronto near Queen’s Park on Saturday, police and city residents clashed with protesters and attempted to isolate hospitals and health care workers from the effects of the protest.

Toronto police made their first arrest related to the protest around 2:15 p.m., after a 22-year-old man was charged with assault with a weapon and reportedly detonating a smoke bomb.

Toronto Mayor John Tory said Friday that police and city officials must do “everything possible” to prevent what unfolded in the capital city this week: a protest-turned-occupation that saw downtown Ottawa overrun with heavy trucks and protesters, businesses forced to close, reports of harassment, honking all night, and racist symbols displayed by some attendees.

The first waves of “Toronto Freedom Convoy” protests came in the form of hundreds of pedestrian protesters holding anti-vaccine mandate signs who gathered near the King Edward statue at Queen’s Park and Bloor Street West.

Protesters against COVID-19 mandates and supporting the Ottawa trucker convoy line the streets of downtown Toronto on February 5, 2022 near Queen's Park.

The crowd was estimated to include between 200 and 400 people in the early afternoon, with dance music blaring while a loudspeaker also broadcast a religious speaker. They chanted “freedom” and carried signs with slogans against Trudeau and against the media.

Protesters got into a heated verbal confrontation with counter-protesters on University Avenue, south of Queen’s Park. “What freedoms do you think are being protected?” one protester yelled at the half-dozen counter-demonstrators holding banners reading: “Take away the dumb phonies. you are selfish

At a news conference on Friday, Toronto police laid out an operational plan that involved a “heavy police presence” downtown over the weekend, the installation of additional CCTV cameras and the closure of two major stretches of downtown. city: portions of University Avenue and College Street: a measure taken to protect Toronto’s hospital row. Toronto Police special event buses were also deployed to physically block off portions of University Avenue. Large vehicles “have proven to be a better way to block off streets,” said Toronto Police Chief James Ramer.

Protesters in Queen’s Park headed north later in the afternoon to meet the large trucks that took over the intersection at Avenue Road and Bloor Street West, honking their horns and blaring music through loudspeakers as people waving flags They surrounded the trucks.

Road closures and barricades set up by police resulted in a quieter queue at the hospital on Saturday afternoon. However, Toronto police say emergency vehicles, including Peel region medics, have been slowed down by traffic caused by the protests.

A mix of a few large heavy trucks, but mostly regular passenger vehicles, and SUVs, many with Canadian flags and people hanging from windows, jammed Bloor Street West, which stretched east and west from Avenue Road. to Bedford Avenue and Yonge Street on Saturday afternoon. .

The first of the crowd began to arrive around noon, and by 3:30 pm the horns were constantly blaring.

The Star asked some of the protesters about their reasons for participating, but only one gave his name.

Gideon Providence, 29, said he was there to oppose vaccination mandates.

“I just want people to have the right not to have the vaccine and for their livelihood not to be threatened,” said Providence, who was draped in a Canadian flag as she walked down Bloor Street West.

The 29-year-old, who lives in Toronto, said he also drove to Ottawa last weekend for the protest there.

He is unvaccinated, he said, over the sound of car and truck horns, as he “doesn’t believe anyone is telling the truth” and “can’t make an informed decision.”

A few steps away, a man in a thong, also draped in a Canadian flag, danced on top of a “Treason Trudeau” float, despite the freezing temperatures.

A large number of healthcare workers and supporters also gathered in hospital queue on Saturday, on the heels of controversial instructions given to healthcare workers on their way to work not to wear hospital uniforms and gowns in public to avoid being attacked by protesters.

Dr. Naheed Dosani, a palliative care physician, tweeted on Saturday: “Treatment, not threats. Health I don’t hate. Health workers refuse to hide. Health workers will never hide.”

A group of Torontonians also volunteered to escort healthcare workers, patients and other essential workers to their workplaces downtown.

Volunteers line the street in hospital queue, offering to walk healthcare workers to work on the day a truck convoy protesting COVID-19 restrictions plans to arrive in Toronto.

Organizer Keltie Hamilton is a former nurse from Alberta and is now studying public health at the University of Toronto. “I worked the first year of the pandemic on the front lines… so I know what it feels like to be afraid. Not only going to work in a pandemic with an airborne illness, but also being scared alone on your way to work didn’t seem right, and it didn’t sit well with a lot of my classmates either,” she said.

The members of the group have parked near the tube stations and Queen’s Park, holding signs that says “health care heroes” and offers to escort people to their workplaces.

Hamilton received “20 to 30 DMs directly from healthcare workers and patients who were just asking if someone could safely walk them to their appointments or to work over the weekend because they were really hesitant because they’re BIPOC or LGBTQ,” she said. .

“We have so many hospitals downtown and so many health care workers who have sacrificed so much in this pandemic. They also don’t need to sacrifice their personal safety trying to get to work this weekend,” Hamilton said.

Meanwhile, protests continue in Ottawa for the eighth day.

Two Freedom Convoy supporters, one holding a Trump flag, ride horses down Metcalfe Street on February 5, 2022 in Ottawa, Canada.

There was clear evidence on Saturday that protesters were settling into their occupation of the city center. On the edge of Confederation Park, across the street from City Hall, people served steaming food in a makeshift kitchen shack, packed sandwiches and toothpaste to share with protesters, and stockpiled firewood.

Saturday’s demonstrations also drew more families to the country’s capital. Tammy Cameron, walking near Parliament Hill with a group of Quebec parents and children, said she drove five hours to Ottawa to denounce vaccination passports and the wearing of masks in schools.

She told the Star that while she and her children were vaccinated, they weren’t planning on getting any more shots. “If you want 18 shots, take 18… If you want two, you should be able to take just two,” he said in French.

Organizers of the “Freedom Convoy” in Ottawa are also now facing a lawsuit from an Ottawa woman who has opened her case for others to join as a potential class action lawsuit.

On Friday, Ottawa resident Zexi Li filed a lawsuit in Ontario Superior Court, seeking damages for emotional and mental distress, headaches, difficulty sleeping, difficulty concentrating, and interference with the quiet enjoyment of your home.

“Class Members live in daily torment caused by the incessant sound of truck horns,” the statement of claim reads.

One of the organizers named as a defendant in the lawsuit, Chris Barber, texted the Star that he had tried to get the convoy participants to stop honking their horns all day and hadn’t been in his own truck since. the last weekend.

With files from Wendy Gillis and Jeremy Nuttall


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