Winnipeg crowds cheer on convoy protesting COVID-19 vaccine mandates, public health measures

Groups of people crowded Winnipeg's city hall and the grounds of the Manitoba Legislature to cheer on a convoy protesting COVID-19 vaccine mandates, public health orders

Groups crowded Winnipeg's city hall, Manitoba Legislature grounds to cheer on convoy

A group of people against vaccine mandates and public health orders hold up signs for traffic driving down Main Street by Winnipeg's city hall. (CBC)

Groups of people crowded the property in front of Winnipeg's City Hall on Main Street and the grounds of the Manitoba Legislature to cheer on a convoy that's protesting COVID-19 vaccine mandates and public health orders.

The crowds first gathered at city hall around 1 p.m. on Saturday. The large crowd included families with young children, and people holding up signs that condemn vaccine mandates and passports as well as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Later in the afternoon, another crowd gathered at the Manitoba Legislature grounds holding similar signs as semi-trailers rolled by with words like "freedom over fear" placed on the sides.

The convoy of semis and other vehicles came from different areas of Winnipeg. Members say they're in solidarity with the group in Ottawa over the weekend. Many in the group are protesting COVID-19 vaccine mandates for truck drivers, but others have said they are against public health measures in general, like partial lockdowns and face masks.

WATCH | Winnipeg rally in support of truck convoy in Ottawa:

Winnipeg rally in support of truck convoy in Ottawa

8 months ago
Duration 1:56
People gather in downtown Winnipeg on Saturday in a rally to support the truck convoy and protest against vaccine mandates in Ottawa.

The group at city hall started the event by singing O Canada, with many holding Canadian flags throughout the crowd all day. At one point, people at Winnipeg's city hall shouted in unison "Roussin, leave our kids alone," referring to Dr. Brent Roussin, Manitoba's chief public health officer.

A member of the crowd at Winnipeg city hall protesting vaccine mandates and public health orders holds up a sign that says 'we will not comply.' (CBC)

Nolan Ashmead was at the Legislature in the early afternoon with his family. They drove from Camperville, Man., that day for the rally.

"We're just here to support freedom and support the rest of Canada and standing up for our rights," he said, adding he wants to see all mandates end.

"So we have the freedom to choose whether we want to wear a mask, not wear a mask. To get vaccinated or not get vaccinated. We want to have the choice for everyone."

Nolan Ashmead brought his family from Camperville, Man., for the rally Saturday. (Radio-Canada)

Savannah and John Casta were there, too. The couple from just outside of Winnipeg said they wanted to support the truckers in Ottawa, but they also want mandates to end.

"We're asking that the mandates end so that we can be free to live our lives the way we did before this all started," said Savannah.

The couple said Manitobans who aren't vaccinated are facing discrimination by not being allowed into gyms and restaurants. 

"We have a baby and even just visiting with other people — even with family and friends — there's a lot of discrimination about 'these people aren't vaccinated, so you have to be careful around them.'"

John and Savannah Casta say people who don't have their vaccines are being discriminated against by not being able to go to a restaurant or work out in a gym. (Radio-Canada)

Mayor Brian Bowman's office said in an emailed statement "he strongly believes that all Winnipeggers should follow the public health orders and get vaccinated and boosted as soon they are eligible. Vaccines are the real road to restoring the freedoms we all want back. Fortunately, the vast majority of Winnipeggers have done their part to restore our freedoms by getting vaccinated."

City staff say they were aware of the planned protest, and coordinated with the Winnipeg Police Service "as per established procedures."

Winnipeg police officers were at both gatherings at city hall and the legislature, both in unmarked vehicles and police cruisers.

In the late afternoon, a convoy of trucks was making its way through Winnipeg from Fort Street at Broadway, stretching back to the Perimeter Highway. Police asked the public to avoid the downtown area.