As the authorities threaten to arrest people blocking the streets of the capital, protest organizers on Wednesday appealed to supporters to pour into Ottawa and make their gatherings too large for the police to disperse.
Changing tactics, the organizers held a fairly standard and controlled news conference at a Sheraton hotel, trying to make their case to the journalists covering them and to ordinary Canadians. In the past, they have spoken primarily to supportive right-wing media, or at news conferences packed with supporters who heckled and intimidated reporters who asked questions.
“We are concerned that the government will order the police to use violence against the peaceful protesters,” said Vincent Gircys, who identified himself as a former police officer.
“Having more Canadians here,” he added, “will prevent the police from carrying out their government orders.”
The protesters object to government-mandated pandemic restrictions, and many of them are defiantly unvaccinated and unmasked.
Their news conference came a few hours after the Ottawa police issued a statement ordering those who have paralyzed parts of the city to leave, telling them that they were committing a crime by blocking streets, and threatening them with arrest, though the timing remains unclear.
A former police officer, Daniel Bulford, said he had served in the armed forces and quit the Royal Canadian Mounted Police because it mandated Covid-19 vaccination. He described himself at the news conference as representing veterans who object “when you force your citizens to comply with orders that don’t make sense.”
“I’m calling on all veterans to come lend your voice to this movement so that the rest of Canada can see that this is wrong,” he said.
He disputed reports of vandalism by protesters, insisting that they have been peaceful.
Speakers at the news conference called the order to disperse an unlawful violation of their right to peaceful protest. But Tom Marazzo, a spokesman for the protests, said that if a crackdown and arrests come, the response will be peaceful.