Weeks after protesters spread across much of Canada to deliver an unruly message to a government they see as overreaching, counterprotesters are taking to the streets with their own message: “Just go home.”
Each weekend, Ottawa has been swollen with thousands of supporters who jam the streets with dance parties, bonfires and even inflatable hot tubs. Protesters pour into stores without masks — violating provincial orders — shoot off fireworks, flaunt jugs of diesel fuel and lean on truck horns at all hours of the day.
The police response has been all but invisible. Even after the premier of Ottawa’s province, Ontario, ordered a state of emergency, giving officers the authority to detain and steeply fine the protesters, there have been just a handful of arrests.
And so on Saturday, thousands of counterprotesters decided to take action. Using a network of social media groups ordinarily dedicated to subjects like dog-walking and barbecues, they passed the word and residents took the streets.
Suzanne Charest, a semiretired communication specialist who turned out for the march, still has trouble recognizing her newly upside-down world.
“I think: Did we really just do this?” she said. “It’s surreal, that it’s gotten to this point it feels like a bad dream that has lasted for two weeks.”
Any sympathy the residents may have once felt for fellow citizens frustrated by a long pandemic and seemingly unending restrictions has worn away under the roar and fumes of diesel engines running without pause.
Some have far more serious concerns. One counterprotest organizer, Alex Silas, said the idea was born out of fear, pointing to what he called “alt-right fascists at the core, with dangerous intentions.”
On Sunday, tensions rose as the counterprotesters returned to the streets, with hundreds of local residents forming a human blockade and trying to prevent more than 30 trucks from gaining access to the downtown core.
The counterprotests are not limited to the capital. According to organizers, the same day more than 3,000 people rallied in Ottawa against the occupation, and a sizable group gathered outside the Manitoba Legislative Building.
Many Canadians say they are exhausted by the constant disruption caused by the antigovernment protests, and they have started gathering across the country. Twitter hashtags like #convoygohome, #GoHomeFluTruxKlan and #GoHomeDipshits make clear the frustration of many Canadians.