Images from Canada’s “Freedom Convoy” rally to protest COVID-19 restrictions over the weekend show an energetic but peaceful rally – despite Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s claim that the protesters are “a small fringe minority” expressing “hateful rhetoric” and “violence toward fellow citizens.”
Connor LaRocque, an entrepreneur who said he became inspired to attend the rally after witnessing the convoy pass through his hometown on the way to Ottowa, the Canadian capital, told Fox News Digital that he felt “very safe” and likened the environment to a football game.
“It was all peace and love the entire event,” he said. “There had to have been over 100,000 people there, and it was all good vibes.”
Authorities had predicted a crowd of about 10,000 – but it’s unclear how many actually turned out, according to the CBC.
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LaRocque, the 26-year-old CEO of a social media marketing firm called Social Rise, said that there were some instances of inappropriate behavior, which he claimed were quickly shut down by the protesters themselves.
“Somebody had a bad flag, a racist flag, and you had people running over saying, ‘Get out of here,” he said.
Instances like that were few and far between, he said, although police have confirmed they are investigating a handful of possible crimes – “multiple cases of disruptive, inappropriate and threatening behaviour from demonstrators.”
Still, in a series of selfie videos shared to TikTok, LaRocque asked officers on patrol how things were going. “Peace – and people are in a good mood,” one cheery officer told him, despite blistering cold temperatures.
“Nothing but good,” another officer said.
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“They called our group the fringe minority – and I believe it’s backwards,” he said. “I think the government is the fringe minority.”
Canadian authorities have said 90% of the country’s truckers are already vaccinated – but a controversial mandate imposed on the holdouts prompted the cross-country drive as a protest. Along the way, other citizens joined in to support the cause and lambaste government mandates and other policies they view as overreaching.
About 78% of the population as a whole is fully vaccinated, according to government statistics, and almost 84% of Canadians have received at least one dose.
But the holdouts want an end to mandates and other COVID-19 restrictions.
“People in our country are fed up,” LaRocque said. “It’s inconsistent with the decision-making. We have a huge percentage that are vaccinated but then they lock us down as a country, the business owners, the children in the schools.”
The ongoing lockdowns and mandates, he said, affect people’s mental health and ability to earn money.
For Trudeau’s part, he was out of town over the weekend, during the protests. On Monday, he announced that he’d tested positive for COVID-19 and planned on working remotely for the rest of the week.
Fox News’ Francesca Walton contributed to this report.