These Ottawans counteract convoy of truckers and ease frayed nerves with ‘safety walk’

On a frosty Friday morning, a few dozen masked people gathered on the corner of Bank and Somerset Street in downtown Ottawa.

The group came together to attend a community safety walk, the first daily event of its kind co-ordinated by concerned city councillors.

A woman joined with her baby swaddled along for the ride, while another woman brought her small dog on a leash.

The appeal of such a walk comes after the week-long presence of convoy demonstrators, harassment and horns honking on a near-constant basis, fraying the nerves of residents living in the neighborhood.

Coun. Catherine McKenney announced Thursday evening on Twitter that the daily walks would be held in Centretown starting Friday.

“We will walk in the core reinforcing the importance of safety for residents and unity at this time,” McKenney said.

The group trudged on the snowy sidewalks northbound on Bank Street toward Gloucester Street, at a distance from the vehicles occupying the streets closer to Parliament Hill.

Coun. Shawn Menard said councilors decided to set up the walks based on the way authorities have responded to the convoy over the last week.

“We’re not seeing that type of protection and intervention for residents and they’re not feeling safe,” he said. “We wish we didn’t get to this point, but we’re here.”

Ottawa police Chief Peter Sloly on Friday committed to “do better” and pledged a “surge” of 150 extra officers to patrol the demonstration.

Ottawa locals hit the streets in a ‘community safety walk’ amid convoy demonstration. #TruckerConvoy2022

Turning the corner from Gloucester to Kent Street, a series of convoy trucks and cars packed on the road came into full view.

As they walked, the group shared in cheerful conversation through the din of idling vehicles and the distant blaring of honking horns throughout the downtown core.

Kiavash Najafi said he decided to join the walkabout because he lives in the neighborhood affected by the ongoing presence of the convoy.

“I just want to have the safety and security to walk around my neighborhood without worrying about the fumes, the noise, the displays of hatred and the act of violence that our neighborhood has been subjected to,” said Najafi, a former longtime NDP staffer .

The walkers passed a line of yellow jerry cans and flat bed trucks donning signs like “The fringe minority” and “Take back our freedom.”

Some walkers pointed out the Marion Dewar Place building at the corner of Kent Street and Cooper Street. The community housing residence has been negatively affected by the incessant noise since convoy demonstrators first arrived in the city.

The walkers were interrupted by a woman in a nearby parked truck with a Canadian flag taped to its door, shouting that her vehicle was egged.

Najafi said he hopes those taking part in the convoy will recognize the fact that “we live here. We are ordinary people, and we are getting hurt.”

He said he also hopes the walks help his neighbors see that they are not alone and the walking group members are “standing up for them.”

As the group wound its way back to the corner where their route began, a man passed around a bag of ear plugs.

Resident Sarah Duff said they need to do what they can to build community and ensure neighbors feel safe going about their daily lives.

“We shouldn’t be held hostage by the police’s inaction, and by the government’s inaction, (on) these truckers,” said Duff.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 4, 2022.

This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship.

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