Police, fire officials monitoring protest camp for 'public safety concerns'
Site came under mayor's scrutiny for 'reckless' storage of fuels
Nick Earle visited Confederation Park on Friday afternoon to check out a nearby encampment formed as part of Ottawa's ongoing truck convoy protest.
The camp features a wooden shack on Lawrence Freiman Lane with a "Freedom" sign out front, a tent — offering free lunch supplies and advertising the group's need for large baggies and hand warmers — and a large woodpile on the opposite park lawn.
The site has come under fire by Mayor Jim Watson for what he called the "reckless" storage of propane gas and diesel fuel by the shack.
Earle — who has lost a family member to COVID-19 — said he agrees with the right to protest, "but not necessarily with what the people here are doing."
"It a bit of a disgrace to the city at this point," he said.
On Friday afternoon, the fenced-in area containing the mix of fuels was no longer there.
Instead, propane tanks and red gas cans sat on the sidewalk behind the shack.
Four people could be seen coming from the direction of the encampment and wheeling yellow jerry cans out of the park, toward Elgin Street.
Several people at the encampment declined to speak to CBC News.
Alicia Fowler was not one of them.
"I saw [a] tweet saying, 'Oh, they're actually handing out free food.' So I went cool, I'm gonna see what's up, so I can actually tell people what's going on," she said.
Fowler lives in Ottawa and works as a holistic nutritionist at a gym that has undergone several shutdowns during the pandemic.
"We were forced to implement the vaccine mandates and passports, which is difficult for us because we believe people should be able to choose," she said.
'We've been showered with love'
Fowler said she believes the protest is "a manifestation of where all of our mental health is at."
"It's been very difficult for a lot of people, for a lot of different reasons," she said.
Katie — who declined to provide her last name and is opposed to all pandemic mandates — said she travelled to Ottawa from B.C. to attend the demonstrations.
"We came with nothing but gas money and our car," she said of her group of friends. "Since we got here, we've been showered with love. We've been supplied shelter. We've got more than enough food. We've got supplies. Everything has been amazing."
Earle saw things differently.
"It just seems like everyone's full of love for their group here, but not for the common citizen," he said.
'Ready to respond to any situation'
The park, lane and adjoining Rideau Canal Skateway are managed by the National Capital Commission (NCC) on behalf of the federal government.
The NCC said Friday afternoon it is working with the Ottawa Police Service "on addressing the next steps on site."
"We will continue to provide updates to the public as the situation evolves," an NCC spokesperson said via email.
The police service said it was aware of the encampment but had no further update.
Ottawa Fire Services said it was working closely with police and the NCC to monitor for any public safety concerns.
"We are ready to respond to any situation that requires our assistance," the fire department said in an emailed statement.