Another convoy descends on Edmonton to show local support for protesters in Ottawa

Blaring truck horns echo throughout downtown Edmonton for a second consecutive weekend, as at least 1,000 Albertans converge to support an anti-vaccine-mandate convoy in Ottawa.

About 1,000 to 2,000 people now in Edmonton for convoy, with several hundred more possibly on way: police

Edmonton police estimate about 1,000 to 2,000 people were in Edmonton participating in a local convoy to show support for demonstrators in Ottawa, with several hundred more potentially on the way. (Nicholas Frew/CBC)

Blaring truck horns echo throughout downtown Edmonton for a second consecutive weekend, as at least 1,000 Albertans converge to support an anti-vaccine-mandate convoy in Ottawa. Hundreds are still in Ottawa as the protest continues.

Several hundred people of all ages gathered on the Alberta Legislature Grounds, next to the Federal Building. A tent there was set up with a sound system that, at one point before speeches began, was playing an anti-COVID song.

But many other demonstrators — some of whom are coming from the blockade in Coutts, Alta. — set up on 109th Street. Traffic was clogged for blocks in both directions, while people cheered from the sidewalks, waving signs and flags.

Many signs call for vaccine mandates to be lifted or suggested the government is taking away freedoms. Some flags read "Trump 2024," and one appeared to be a QAnon flag — a Canada flag with a large 'Q', a nod to the online conspiracy theory group.

The Edmonton Police Service estimated about 1,000 to 2,000 people are in the city participating in the convoy, but "several hundred" more could arrive later Saturday afternoon, a spokesperson said.

Many protesters, either in vehicles or on the sidewalk, lined 109th Street in both traffic directions. A police officer, in the reflective coat, is shown here directing traffic at 109th Street and 99th Avenue. (Julia Wong/CBC)

Canada Unity, an anti-public-health-mandate group, organized a national convoy late last month to protest the federal vaccine policy that came into effect for truckers crossing the Canada-U.S. border — a group of travellers previously exempt from pandemic entry requirements.

As of Jan. 15, Canadian truck drivers who are not fully vaccinated against COVID-19 must get a PCR test outside Canada within 72 hours of planned entry; get tested when they arrive; and then self-test on Day 8 of a mandatory 14-day quarantine period.

On Jan. 22, a similar policy took effect in the U.S. that stops all unvaccinated and partially vaccinated non-U.S. travellers, including essential workers such as truckers, from coming into the country.

Combined, the policies stop Canadian truckers who are not fully immunized against COVID-19 from leaving the country for work — though they are free to cross Canada's interprovincial borders.

Police said Friday the force was aware of the planned convoy and, with support from "municipal and provincial partners," was allocating "crowd and traffic management resources" to protect public safety, while upholding peoples' right to peaceful demonstration while within city limits.

Mitigation of "disorderly conduct" may include warnings, tickets, arrests and evidence-gathering for ensuing investigations, police said in a statement.

Several hundred people gathered on the Legislature Grounds to listen to speeches during Saturday's convoy. (Alicia Asquith/CBC)

Edmonton police warn the convoy may result in traffic congestion on Anthony Henday Drive, Yellowhead Trail, Stony Plain Road, Whitemud Drive, Gateway Boulevard, Walterdale Hill, Queen Elizabeth Road and parts of downtown Edmonton until 6 p.m. Saturday.

In anticipation of the convoy, the City of Edmonton said Friday that city hall is closed to the public until further notice.

On Saturday, Edmonton Mayor Amarjeet Sohi released a statement upholding people's right to peaceful protest, but denouncing the message of many participating in these convoys.

"One thing is becoming clear. This convoy is not about truckers or about freedom," said Sohi, adding that he has family and friends who work in the trucking industry who are vaccinated.

"This convoy does not reflect their values or the values of the vast majority of Edmontonians."

Some businesses impacted by convoy last weekend

Last weekends convoy brought a lot of noise and traffic to Edmonton — the latter of which hurt local businesses.

Business owners who contacted the Edmonton Downtown Business Association, an advocate for downtown businesses, reported revenue losses of 60 to 90 per cent, with businesses located closer to the Legislature bearing the brunt, said executive director Puneeta McBryan.

"The sheer difficulty of customers and staff getting in and out was just really, really tough. And I don't think most of the protesters had much interest in showing their proof of vaccination and wearing a mask," McBryan said.

"It's almost an impossibility to do business physically anywhere near the Legislature building when they're causing such massive traffic backlogs."

Given that, and how uncomfortable some employees were, many business owners will have to decide whether it's wise to open this weekend at all, she said.

Shaosi Wang, owner of Let's Grill Sushi & Izakaya, told CBC News Friday that he will open his restaurant, but expects revenue losses stemming from the convoy.

Delivery drivers may have a hard time accessing the restaurant, located near Jasper Avenue and 107th Street, but it will be enforcing provincial public health measures, Wang said.

"Once [customers] come into the restaurant, they need to wear masks."

With files from Alicia Asquith, Madeleine Cummings, Nathan Gross and Julia Wong