The story behind this photo of downtown residents blocking a truck's path
Social media applauds 3 women as 'heroes' after they stood up to vehicles 'terrorizing' neighbourhood
That's what a few Ottawa residents communicated in their body language seen in a photo circulating online — a snapshot that captures the tension between Ottawans living in the downtown core and a cross-country convoy of visitors who have occupied city streets and Parliament Hill since Friday.
The image shows a large dump truck just metres away from two residents standing in the middle of a narrow Cooper Street in the city's Centretown neighbourhood — and both sides appear to be at a standstill.
"I decided to get out in the streets in front of a big truck … because I felt powerless. By that point it was three days of non-stop honking, yelling," Marika Morris, one of the residents in the photo, told CBC News on Tuesday.
"We can't think, we can't work, we can't study."
WATCH | Neighbours share the story behind the photo:
Tuesday marks the fifth day downtown Ottawa residents have had to endure blaring honks and the smell of diesel fuel, stemming from an occupation of trucks and thousands of protesters that came to Ottawa in what began as opposition to mandatory vaccination for cross-border truckers — and has since evolved to include a range of opposition to COVID-19 public health measures.
"The only way to communicate with them was to stand in the middle of the road and make a thumbs down sign every time they honked," said Morris.
"That was the only way to communicate that we don't want them to terrorize us and we don't want them to occupy our streets."
It's not easy to stand up to a bully.- Andrea Colbert, Ottawa resident
Morris, who's seen in the photo directly in front of the truck leading a small parade of other vehicles, points her thumb down at drivers. Some are applauding her and her neighbours as "heroes."
"Three older ladies just blocked a small convoy led by a dump truck on Cooper. They were fantastic and are my new heroes," posted a Reddit user Monday, alongside the photo.
"Not all heroes wear capes! Some wear shawls," another wrote in response.
The photographer, who lives on the street and who CBC agreed not to name because of concerns for their safety, said they wanted "to share [the women's] bravery."
"They were doing what I think a lot of Ottawans wanted to do but were too afraid to do — stand up to the abuse of some of the protesters. I was very proud of them," the resident wrote to CBC in a private message.
Three brave senior women say ENOUGH <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Ottawa?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Ottawa</a> <br><br>(Posted with permission from Facebook) <a href="https://t.co/zzR0P034ui">pic.twitter.com/zzR0P034ui</a>—@kathleenogrady
'They don't care whether we live or die'
Lise Lebeau and Andrea Colbert were with Morris on Monday afternoon.
"The driver got very mad and he was honking," explained Lebeau, who said their impromptu blockade lasted only a few minutes before the women allowed the trucks to drive past.
"They got more belligerent, really aggressive, and were yelling at us," said Colbert.
Morris said the vehicles blocked every entry and exit for emergency vehicles.
"I know they don't care whether we live or die, but I certainly do care whether my neighbours live or die — so I wasn't going to stand there for too long."
Worried for neighbours
Morris said she typically sees people walking dogs all hours of the day — but the street has been barren for days. She knows of at least one child who's afraid to step outside, and says the vehicles are preventing some elderly residents from getting their prescription medications or grocery deliveries.
Morris said she was "choking on the way to the pharmacy" on vehicle exhaust fumes as they idled nearby. Lebeau, who has difficulty breathing, said she had to rely on her puffer more in the past few days.
The women also allege some people have defecated in the neighbourhood yards.
"They say they're doing this for freedom? Well we don't feel free, that's for sure," said Morris.
"We just decided we had enough, and we thought we'd make a statement," said Colbert, as horns roared behind her. "They're terrorizing our city."
She said once the photo of the trio began circulating, she felt proud of their efforts.
"But that was scary," Colbert said. "That's a huge truck ... It's not easy to stand up to a bully."
On Tuesday, Ontario Premier Doug Ford said it's time for protesters to move on to "let the people of Ottawa live" and let closed businesses reopen.
Asked during a Monday afternoon news conference whether police might end up clearing the protesters out, Ottawa police Chief Peter Sloly said police have "all options" on the table.
Sloly is scheduled to provide another update on the demonstrations on Wednesday afternoon.
With files from Stu Mills