OPINION- The Battle of Billings Bridge – Views from the Front Lines of the Anti-Convoy Protest

Robin Leckie

Many local residents joined with other Ottawans along Riverside Drive on February 13th in the anti-convey protest against the three week-long occupation of our City by groups opposed to COVID restrictions. Photo by Jeff Sutton

Many local residents joined with other Ottawans along Riverside Drive on February 13th in the anti-convey protest against the three week-long occupation of our City by groups opposed to COVID restrictions. Photo by Jeff Sutton

Although I wasn’t directly bothered by the congestion and noise and mess in my Rideau Gardens neighbourhood, I could feel the tension and stress in my City due to the “occupation” by the so-called trucker convoy. The morning of February 13th, I saw a tweet from Joel Harden (MLA, Ottawa Centre), inviting people to join two anticonvoy protests at Bronson Avenue and at Riverside Drive, near Billings Bridge Shopping Centre. I walked to Riverside and found a group of about 30 people blocking a line of 35 or so trucks and cars, all of them with flags and signs supporting the convoy.


The police officer then
asked: “So, how does
this end?”, and I
thought to myself:
“that’s your problem”.

Most people milled around in front of the line of vehicles, while some walked slowly by the cars and trucks. Soon after I arrived, a police liaison officer told the crowd that the convoy truckers had agreed to leave and travel away from downtown, where they would regroup! This was not well accepted by the crowd. The police officer then asked: “So, how does this end?” and I thought to myself: “that’s your problem.” No one knew the answer to his question, but the truckers’ offer was not accepted, and we all stayed where we were.

More and more people joined us, and a large “End the Occupation” sign was held aloft at the end of Riverside, facing Bank Street. Joel Harden led some supportive chants and discussion circles, in which we were asked what we all wanted from this protest. In my own discussions with participants, I heard frustration with the lawlessness, the noise, and the lack of action by police, as well as a sense of helplessness.


“At the protest, I never
said anything to any
of them, but I felt
angry and frustrated.
When I heard, later,
that they had finally
left, after having
to remove all convoy
paraphernalia and
turning over their fuel
supplies, I was
relieved and felt
empowered.”

After two hours, I went home to warm up and came back a couple of hours later. Now, there was a much larger crowd, and many people were walking alongside the vehicles. The convoy truck and car drivers looked down at their phones or stared uneasily straight ahead. One driver had gotten out of his car and was talking to a group of protestors – brave guy, I thought. In one car, the young woman sat and smiled pleasantly. In the truck at the end of the line, the passenger was a young boy, scampering around the truck; the driver seemed frustrated, maybe a little angry. My only regret: I should have asked the father of that little boy if his son needed some water or something to eat.

At the protest, I never said anything to any of them, but I felt angry and frustrated. When I heard, later, that they had finally left, after having to remove all convoy paraphernalia and turning over their fuel supplies, I was relieved and felt empowered. I later wondered if our protest did, in some way, add impetus to the growing sentiment that the government needed to do something to end the occupation before citizens took matters into their own hands; I guess I’ll never know.

Robin Leckie is a McNaughton Street resident who joined others from Old Ottawa East on February 13th to protest the truckers’ convoy “occupation.”

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