By Steve Lambert, The Canadian Press
WINNIPEG — Protests against COVID-19 vaccine mandates and other restrictions spread Friday to Manitoba’s capital, where more than two dozen large trucks and farm vehicles blocked the main entrance to the legislature grounds and one block of a nearby street.
Large Canadian and U.S. flags flew from some trucks. Others bore signs with phrases such as “Mandate Freedom.” At least one truck’s horn blared as loudly as a train’s.
“I am just getting tired of being locked down (and) all the mandates coming in,” said Jacob Loewen, who drove in to Winnipeg from the Winkler area, more than an hour to the southwest.
“I had family that were in the hospital that we couldn’t see for a while, and that does hurt.”
Another protester, who did not give his name, said the crowd planned to stay for days.
The event appeared to have an almost festive atmosphereby midday as dozens of smaller vehicles and people on foot joined in. Classic rock music blared from a sound system as people, some offering a thumbs-up, drove by in a loop. Less positive feelings were evident on signs that contained an expletive with the prime minister’s name. A few placards accused the media of lying.
A small counter-protest, involving less than a dozen people, was held nearby. One person was dressed as the Grim Reaper with a sign saying: “Get vaxxed, I need a vacation.” Another carried a sign reading: “Honk if you love abortion.”
Legislature security had prepared for the protest. Entrances that were already blocked off with gates or concrete barriers were reinforced — in one case with a wall of snow.
The main entrance to the legislature grounds, usually partially open to allow vehicles to park after checking in with a security guard, was closed off completely by a row of large truck cabins involved in the protest.
Traffic was moving on the street that runs in front of the legislature, but it was inching along as protesters lined both sides of the street and stood on the middle boulevard.
The government had already urged people to work from home, so the building was almost empty. The Winnipeg Police Service urged drivers to avoid the area and said the protest, as of mid-afternoon, was peaceful.
“The protesters have been working co-operatively with the police on this event,” Chief Danny Smyth said.
Manitoba Premier Heather Stefanson said she hoped things would continue that way.
“Obviously if things change and things start to deteriorate, we’ll continue to monitor the situation and take action if needed.”