A community coalition held a rally in downtown Ottawa Saturday to encourage the community to "say no to hate and yes to community care and solidarity" following the "Freedom Convoy" demonstration.

The community solidarity march and rally hosted by Community Solidarity Ottawa and Canadians United Against Hate also demanded that police and all levels of government be held to account for the demonstration that occupied the downtown core for more than three weeks.

"There needs to be accountability," said organizer Hassan Husseini. "There has to be an open inquiry, a citizen's inquiry so that we know what went wrong and who was responsible."

The rally came two weeks after police moved in to end the "Freedom Convoy" protest on Wellington Street and roads around Parliament Hill, which forced the closure of several roads and businesses.

"The city, the federal government and the provincial government failed us all," said Centretown resident Michelle Villeneuve, who described the three weeks in February as terrifying. "I felt trapped inside my house."

The event began at Marion Dewar Plaza at Ottawa City Hall at 1 p.m.. It included a 2.5 km to 3.5 km march.

"In the last weeks, residents across the city have undertaken inspiring actions to oppose the far right occupation of Ottawa, from marches to blockades to putting up posters and banging pots and pans. This collective experience will help us build a movement rooted in solidarity and inclusion that can counter the far right," Community Solidarity Ottawa said on its website.

"The convoy is finally being pushed out of downtown Ottawa, but the far right continues to threaten our safety, security and dignity, and we have seen firsthand the authorities' role in enabling this threat. Let's continue to come together to say no to hate and yes to community care and solidarity."

Community Solidarity Ottawa said the rally and march would issue the following calls to action:

  • Demand the police, the mayor, the premier, and the federal government are held accountable "for allowing a dangerous far-right occupation to overrun our city and terrorize residents."
  • Say no to misogyny, homophobia, transphobia and all other forms of hate
  • Show support for frontline workers
  • Call to maintain and improve public health protections

"There were also symbols and messages of hate among the protesters which they didn’t seem to mind," said Fareed Khan, founder of Canadians United Against Hate.

"The fact that political leaders allowed them and their followers to have the run of downtown Ottawa and hold the city hostage is unacceptable and there needs to be a reckoning."

Those in attendance, like Debbie Owusu-Akyeeah, said the community has a responsibility to speak out against hatred.

"These types of ideologies have no place here, although it does exist, but we have a responsibility of eradicating it," she said. "Change needs to happen. We need legislation that specifically targets white supremacist hate."

Last weekend, dozens of people gathered in Minto Park on Elgin Street to show support for residents in the neighbourhood following the "Freedom Convoy" demonstration.