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Hundreds of truckers pour into Ottawa to protest vaccine mandates

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Hundreds of trucks and thousands of people blocked the streets of central Ottawa on Saturday as part of a self-titled “Freedom Convoy” to protest vaccine mandates required to cross the US border.

Flying the Canadian flag, waving banners demanding “Freedom” and chanting slogans against Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, the truckers were joined by thousands of other protesters angered not only by Covid-19 restrictions but by broader discontent with the government.

An enormous clamour rang out as hundreds of big trucks, their engines rumbling, sounded their air horns non-stop.

Closer to Parliament, families calmly marched on a bitterly cold day, while young people chanted and older people in the crowd banged pots and pans in protest under Trudeau’s office windows.

Canadian media said the prime minister and his family had been escorted out of their home and taken to a secret location in the capital, with much of the protesters’ wrath directed at Trudeau.

“I want it all to stop — these measures are unjustified,” said one demonstrator, 31-year-old businessman Philippe Castonguay, outside the Parliament building.

He had driven seven hours from northern Quebec province to make his feelings known: “The vaccination requirements are taking us toward a new society we never voted for,” he said.A

The protest originated last week in western Canada, where dozens of truckers organized a convoy to drive from Vancouver to Ottawa to demonstrate against Covid-related restrictions, particularly a vaccination requirement for truck drivers.

Both Canada and the United States imposed that requirement in mid-January, affecting drivers who cross the 9,000-km border — the world’s longest. The movement rapidly gained steam as the original cross-country convoy was joined by others en route to the federal capital. Their rallying point was Parliament Hill, in the heart of Ottawa. Stephen Penderness, an unvaccinated 28-year-old trucker from Ontario, said he was protesting for all Canadians, not just his fellow drivers.

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