'Freedom convoy' expected to cause significant traffic delays as truckers reach Toronto
The Freedom Convoy of 2022 is about to bring thousands of angry truck drivers into the Greater Toronto Area as part of a large-scale protest against federal COVID vaccine mandates... and ain't nothin' gonna get in their way, it seems.
Yes, they've got a mighty convoy that's been rockin' through several nights, but for drivers in Toronto it won't be a beautiful sight when they reach local highways, as Ontario Provincial Police warn of significant expected traffic delays on account of the demonstration.
"The OPP is aware of potential protests that will be coming through the GTA area, likely tomorrow and through until Saturday," said OPP Highway Safety Division Sgt. Kerry Schmidt in a live broadcast from the field on Wednesday.
"We're expecting vehicles large and small converging into the GTA area from different areas across the province — western Ontario, the north, as well as down from Niagara."
Schmidt warns that "these convoys may affect traffic flow" and that there could be "potential disruptions" as a result. He advises all area motorists to plan ahead, avoid impacted roads where possible, and expect delays starting on Thursday.
The #OPP encourages everyone on the roads to be patient and respectful of each other despite potential inconvenience related to the protest convoy. #ONHwys pic.twitter.com/EfMelD9R2B— OPP Highway Safety Division (@OPP_HSD) January 27, 2022
"Protesters do have the right to peacefully protest, and for any participants involved in any types of protest, I know our provincial liaison teams are working diligently with the organizers to ensure public safety and traffic safety for everybody," says Schmidt.
"We do expect drivers to maintain a sense of movement and keeping the highways flowing for emergency vehicles and for other users of the highways," he continues, noting that "officers will be monitoring and observing activities."
While early rumblings of potential disruptive violence are keeping officials in Ottawa, where the convoy is headed, on high alert, official protest organizers insist that the demonstrations are meant to be peaceful.
"Any statements made indicating that we are in some way 'separatism' or 'terrorists' are categorically false and an attempt to smear this movement," wrote the convoy's organizers in a release issued via Facebook on Thursday.
"It is saddening that this kind of rhetoric is coming from Prime Minister Trudeau and his government instead of protecting our basic freedoms outlined in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms," the continue.
"We are peaceful, hard-working Canadians who love our country and want the betterment for all Canadians."
CANADA- In 2 days Ottawa will become the worlds biggest Truck Stop.— Bernie's Tweets (@BernieSpofforth) January 27, 2022
50,000 trucks,joined by trucks from the US and 1.5 million people will demand an end to Covid discrimination and Trudeau’s tyrannical grip.
We stand with you.#TruckerConvoy2022 pic.twitter.com/5tlqYfUYLX
Sadly, despite the best intentions of those organizing the protest, there has already been some evidence of aggressive, unsanctioned activities surrounding the convoy.
Individuals were caught on camera harassing journalists early Thursday morning, and conversation surrounding the movement on Twitter has proven anything but peaceful.
It appears as though many unhinged Twitter users are using the freedom convoy's momentum to share their own disturbing thoughts and extremist views, some giving detailed descriptions of how they wish to harm Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
The actual protest organizers, however, remain focused on bringing a political message — not violent actions — to Ottawa with their convoy.
"Our goal remains the same, to encourage the government of Canada to repeal its cross border Covid tracking passport, phone app, and ALL Covid-19 vaccine mandates," reads the release issued Thursday.
"Due to the size of our movement and the overwhelming support we are receiving from people around the world, we can no longer promise that the average Canadian will not be disrupted by our convoy."
From Toronto to the world just now!!!#FreedomConvoy2022 pic.twitter.com/yp0tMtvbQm— The 🇨🇺Cuban 🇨🇦Canadian King (@FustezG) January 27, 2022
Organizers say that the convoy was initially estimated to contain about 1,600 heavy trucks. They now estimate that number to be closer to 50,000 as the convoy heads to Ottawa.
The group has now raised more than $6 million for the cause through GoFundMe, though it's unclear if, when and how the funds will be released to them.
Drivers along the convoy's south route are expected to travel from Toronto to Kingston, Ontario, beginning today (January 27). They will depart from Vaughan Mills around noon and expect to arrive in Kingston around 5 p.m... though timelines could very well change if traffic is as bad as police expect it to be.
OPP officers are ready and waiting, however, to ensure that the convoy moves through the GTA as safely as possible.
"We certainly understand our role in this is to keep our highways safe and our communities safe and that's what we'll continue to do tomorrow as these protests arrive and as they continue across the province," said Schmidt on Wednesday.
"I'll be providing more updates as they become available, but for now, be aware that there could be significant traffic delays through provincial highways, GTA area highways —the 401, 400, the QEW, and other highways, the 403, 427, 404, and potentially more as the day progresses."
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