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Ottawa, other cities act to rein in escalating anti-vaccine protests

Ottawa police expect as many as 400 more trucks and up to 2,000 people to arrive this weekend
A cyclist stops in front of trucks blocked on Metcalfe Street as a rally against COVID-19 restrictions, which began as a cross-country convoy protesting a federal vaccine mandate for truckers, continues in Ottawa, on Friday, February 4, 2022. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Patrick Doyle

Ottawa and several other cities across Canada are working to try to ensure that escalating protests against COVID vaccine mandates and other public health restrictions remain peaceful today.

Police in Ottawa have said they are expecting as many as 400 more trucks and up to 2,000 people on foot to arrive this weekend to join the protest that has been rebranded by critics, including a lot of frustrated downtown residents, as an occupation.

Weekend protests in solidarity with the Ottawa event are being organized near provincial legislatures in Toronto, Quebec City, Winnipeg, Regina, and Victoria, as well as the Coutts, Alta., border crossing.

Police forces in those cities say they have learned lessons from Ottawa’s predicament and have developed strategies designed to protect key infrastructure, such as vital traffic corridors and hospitals, and also prevent possible violence.

Those strategies have involved significantly boosting the presence of police officers at protest sites, blocking off key access routes and stepping up enforcement of traffic regulations and bylaws regarding excessive noise and other applicable issues.

On another front, crowdfunding site GoFundMe now says it will reimburse or redirect to charities the vast majority of the more than $10 million raised by the demonstrators in Ottawa, saying the event “has become an occupation, with police reports of violence and other unlawful activity.”

Both the Ottawa Police Service and Mayor Jim Watson thanked GoFundMe for its decision, which could deny participants a vital source of money.

But Tamara Lich, one of the protest organizers, said in a video Friday that they have a new official donation site, the U.S.-based GiveSendGo, which calls itself a “Free Christian Crowdfunding” website.

Ottawa lawyer Paul Champ, meantime, has filed a proposed class-action lawsuit on behalf of thousands of residents seeking millions of dollars in damages and an injunction “prohibiting the continuation of the nuisance.”

READ MORE: GoFundMe removes Freedom Convoy fundraiser, says protest has ‘become an occupation’

The Canadian Press