The frozen capital is a hot mess.
For the last 17 days, Ottawa has been occupied by mobs and convoys of angry, honking, unlawful protesters. They are actively intimidating our citizens and occupying the centre of our city. They are breaking all kinds of laws – with impunity. They have established – with no apparent opposition – major encampments where fuel, food and who knows what else are being distributed to the protesters and their families. They have barricaded themselves into the downtown area at Parliament Hill and at our baseball stadium that ironically was the drive-through Covid assessment centre just months ago, and is now a convenient 10-minute drive from occupation headquarters.
No one has stopped them. Police stand by as hundreds of jerry cans of diesel fuel are carried into the blockade, protesters set up shelters, playgrounds, saunas and bonfires – on Parliament Hill.
In a city that literally is over-ruled by jurisdictions (federal, provincial, municipal governments, National Capital Commission, OPP, RCMP) and constantly over-administered – we now, as citizens, are at the mercy of thousands of bullies. Residents have left the downtown core fearing for their safety and sanity after weeks of all-night honking and insults and threats on the streets. Right now as I write, two convoys of trucks are honking and snaking their way through major thoroughfares holding us all captive on a Sunday morning.
Where is the justice? Not here in Ottawa. Not right now. The most effective actions taken so far have been by citizens, filing injunctions, and by some city councilors now yelling for assistance. We have been told to just stay home – let the bullies have their space – it is a dangerous situation. This, in a city where protests by BIPOC groups of 20 or 30 have been shut down in minutes, where temporary shelters erected by the homeless are torn down – quickly, where citizens who are disturbing the peace are subdued, and in the case of Abdirahman Abdi, killed by police officers.
Is it a complicated, dangerous situation – yes, very. In the downtown encampment there are hundreds of families and children that need to be protected. There are some very, very angry protesters whom I am sure have weapons. There are cunning, opportunistic, robotic organizers whose past careers include the military, police and national intelligence. The protesters are fueled by frustration and anger and years of feeling they have not been heard. Their angry willingness to break laws has been harnessed, manipulated and sharpened into a well-oiled protest machine that is not just about vaccines. There is strong, white supremacist, international support behind all of this.
Yesterday, over a thousand of us, gathered in parkas, masks and placards to show support for Centretown and our fellow citizens. We cannot stay home anymore. We do not want to be held captive and trapped in our own community, our own city. We do not want to witness desecrations against religious and racial groups. We will not have swastikas and confederate flags flown in our capital city. Are we frustrated by the restrictions of the pandemic and living through our second winter of lockdowns? Of course we are! But not at the cost of human rights being trampled and real freedom defiled.
Where are our leaders, where are our protectors?
A fellow teacher said that it is like having a school full of every angry, acting-out grade 8 student you have ever met. Can you imagine a teacher letting a group of bullies take over a class, intimidate and insult fellow students, re-arrange and barricade the class, block the windows and do whatever the hell they want? An experienced teacher would long before pick up on and address individual anger, protect the vulnerable and develop and fortify a safe community. A real teacher/leader would not let that happen.
How did we get here – to so much anger and so much hate? We have not being paying attention and we are not taking action.
As I go to publish this, I hear that citizens are blocking the Sunday parade convoy from re-entering downtown. Might just get back into the parka and mask and head out.