'Freedom Convoy' protesters regroup in rural communities surrounding Ottawa
After a large police operation cleared out "Freedom Convoy" protesters from downtown Ottawa, many vehicles are regrouping on private properties in communities outside of the city.
On White Lake Road, five minutes south of Arnprior, Ont., an assembly of vehicles has been present in a farm field since Friday. Protest organizer Pat King had told protesters ahead of the weekend police operation to regroup at the Antrim Truck Stop in Arnprior.
Antrim owner Tom Orr, who has 10 acres of parking space for truckers at his stop, told CTV News Ottawa he has had to kick out roughly 150 people associated with the convoy from his property who refused to follow his business's rules. Orr says that has pushed more protesters to gather down the road from his truck stop.
Approximately 30 to 35 vehicles could be seen at the gathering Tuesday, with at least a dozen portable washrooms and large dining tents set up on site as well.
McNab/Braeside mayor Tom Peckett says he went to the site Tuesday and spoke with protesters gathered there who told him it is a staging area for people to meet up and say their goodbyes before heading back home.
"Each day there's a certain amount of vehicles that turn over," Peckett tells CTV News Ottawa. "They come in for a day, they stay overnight, they socialize, they get up in the morning and a bunch of that group leaves for the west and then some more come in from the city of Ottawa."
At this time, the mayor for the area says he has no issues with protesters gathering in the field. He adds they have followed the township's bylaws including securing a permit for outdoor fires.
"It's on private property, they're not obstructing the roads, they're not blowing their horns or creating any noise that I'm aware of," says Peckett.
On Saturday, OPP vehicles could be seen near the field. Police told CTV News Ottawa they were nearby for proactive reasons. On Tuesday, no police were in the vicinity. OPP said Tuesday that they are aware of the gatherings on White Lake Road, as well as another in Vankleek Hill, Ont. at the corner of Highway 417 and Highway 34, and are monitoring both locations.
Champlain Township Mayor Normand Riopel told CTV News Ottawa in an email that the municipality is aware of the the presence of truckers at the location in Vankleek Hill, but no activity had been reported to him, and he did not believe further comment at this time would be appropriate.
Peckett says if protesters start breaking any laws, the municipality will act appropriately. The mayor adds he doesn't expect the staging area to be in place much longer, based on conversations with those at the site.
"He said to me that figured they wouldn't be there very long, maybe another couple of days, two or three days or so," says Peckett, "and then be all gone."