Yesterday in this space I gave a summary of the awful things that happened in Ottawa on Friday and Saturday, where a group of self-proclaimed “peaceful protesters” settled into the streets of our Nations Capital. As the sun rose on Sunday, and more of their actions came to light, one might have hoped that they would have learned a lesson or two from what the wrought onto the people who call Ottawa home. And yet, as the night turned into day, that hope was quickly dashed as we saw more disgusting acts and more stories come out about the completely disrespect this marauding group unleashed. For this summary, I’ll put this into three categories. Let’s start with the “protests” themselves:
First off, it’s clear this group have not learned a bloody thing and clearly aren’t interested in doing anything but wreak havoc on the lives of the people who live in Ottawa. They are celebrating the cancellation of COVID vaccination clinics, ensuring that more people will have their access to life-saving vaccinations delayed because of their ignorance. When faced with the consequences of their degradation of the Terry Fox memorial just off of Parliament Hill and the National War Memorials, their response was bullshit and no apologies at all. I assume that response also replies to the desecration of the National Aboriginal Veterans Monument, which was also urinated on. For a group that claims that they are “protesting” in support of veterans and Indigenous peoples, they clearly have no problem insulting and disrespecting those very same people.
Then on top of that, we saw more attacks against journalists for simple doing their jobs in a professional manner. We also saw people being outwardly proud of being white supremacists, which was a blunt admission that came with no hiding it or shame. And for those who will say “oh, it’s just a few bad apples”, what does that say for those in the crowd who rose their hands or cheered in support of such declarations. Seriously, it’s no longer a group of “bad apples” when those present who say they are opposed to such crap stay silent or cheer it on. For the second category of actions yesterday, let’s look at what the people of Ottawa have had to live with and what has been directed at them from these “protesters”:
Paramedics get rocks and racists slurs behind hurled at them by “respectful protesters”, to the point where they need police escorts (something I will return to in a moment). Verbally abusing residents and defecating on the steps of homes for simply flying the rainbow flag in the window of their own homes. Firing fireworks directly at people’s homes with impunity. Threatening teenagers working part-time service jobs with stabbing and worse for simply politely asking people to wear a mask. Flailing around a tiger torch in a threatening manner towards residents. And stores, malls, libraries, schools and more being forced to close because of this lawless, threatening crap. None of that speaks to anything close to resembling “respectful” or “peaceful” protesters. Not one iota of it. And that brings me to the last category, which refers to the actions of law enforcement in all of this:
I am going to preface everything that I say here with this disclaimer up front; I know that the police have a very difficult job in this situation and that they are not in an enviable position facing all of this. I know that the majority of individual officers have been acting in an extremely professional manner and have done so in a neutral and objective manner. I applaud those officers and thank them for their continued service here.
But that being said, I have a hard time viewing the policing of this situation as a success. Despite everything I said above and believe, you cannot ignore videos of police being “buddy, buddy” with this group. You can’t ignore the impact that is has on this group when individual officers’ day they support them, and the protesters are “having a good time”. Where the Shepherds of Good Hope having a good time when their clients were assaulted and the scarce food for the homeless was stolen? How about those citizens who had to see antisemitic messages and flags all over? How about those businesspeople and their staff who had faced threats, assaults or have had to close for days because of this crap? Was pissing on the National War Memorial a hallmark of a “good time” according to that officer that said that with a chuckle and a smile? Is threatening to overthrowing our elected government and dismantling our very system of representative democracy part of “having a good time”?
Come the fuck on, you have to be kidding me. This weekend was pure, unadulterated Hell for so many citizens in Ottawa, especially those who live downtown and have been unable to escape it all. Many have been effectively trapped in their homes, while random “respectful protesters” have been threatening them where they live. And through it all, the Ottawa Police has bee absent. There may be a legitimate reason for that absence, but they have still been absent. These law-abiding citizens have been left to their own devices to face threats of violence and to the safety of their homes and families, while at the same time, some Ottawa Police have been seen taking selfies with those issuing those threats and defacing the city. No wonder some of those protesters and their organizers have the impression that the police are “on their side” when some on-duty officers in uniform act like that.
There is nothing right with that at all, and that is a failure on the part of the Ottawa Police, period. While there may be legitimate reasons for policing this as they have, the Ottawa Police service have a lot to answer for simply because the faith of citizens to serve and protect them from lawlessness took a serious hit this weekend. And I can’t blame those citizens for feeling let down by their police. When they needed them the most, when they were facing these threats, the Ottawa Police were not there for them. After all this is done, the Ottawa Police and Ottawa City Council will need to address this in full because the people deserve answers to help rebuild any trust.
In the meantime, this isn’t over yet. While the crowds have thinned and a good number of people have gone home, the core protest group and the more extreme part of them remain in place. They continue to insist on their demands that will never be met, and they refuse to leave until they are met. I understand why the police are trying to avoid a confrontation with these people, but at point do they finally move in and remove this group from where they stand? Opinions on that vary but this cannot continue as such much longer. This is the part of this moment that is the most dangerous, as this group isn’t likely to accept the inevitable result of their unacceptable demands being rejected. If we’ve already seen the worst of this “protest”, then that’s good. But it still feels to me like we haven’t yet. That will all come down to how the last part of this group is dealt with. Until then, Ottawa remains on edge and the pressure to deal with this group of disrespectful people will only grow. We’ll see how this goes, while still hoping for a peaceful conclusion to all of this crap.