As a large crowd of demonstrators mingled on Parliament Hill in Ottawa for the "Freedom Convoy" protest against COVID-19 public health mandates, images of a statue of Terry Fox holding a protest sign sparked outrage among social media users, including the mayor of Ottawa.

Someone had placed an upside-down Canadian flag onto the statue of Terry Fox at the corner of Wellington and Metcalfe and draped another flag around the statue's back and shoulders. A protest sign was also placed in the statue's hands.

The signs and a baseball cap were later removed, but the upside-down flag remained.

In a tweet, Ottawa mayor Jim Watson called the move "completely unacceptable" and said he ordered staff to remove the items placed on the statue.

"This kind of stunt by protesters does not help their cause," Watson tweeted.

Brad West, the mayor of Fox's hometown of Port Coquitlam, B.C., accused whoever placed the items on the statue of appropriating Fox's legacy.

"He’s our city’s hero, national inspiration and a unifier. Whatever your cause, you don’t get to appropriate his legacy and you don’t touch his statue. Ever."

An upside-down flag is generally meant to symbolize distress or danger, but has been used by protesters at different times as a political statement.

The government of Canada's rules for flying the national flag say the flag should never be flown upside down except as a signal of distress in instances of extreme danger to life, and should also never be used to cover a statue.

While it didn't directly comment on the images of the statue in Ottawa, the Terry Fox Foundation tweeted an image of a statue of the Canadian icon, with the message that he believed in science.

"Terry believed in science and gave his life to help others. Thank you to all of our supporters who help us work toward realizing Terry’s dream of a world without cancer," the tweet said.

Many social media users said they made a donation to the Terry Fox Foundation after seeing the picture.

"In response to the defiling of the Terry Fox statue in Ottawa, I've made a donation to @TerryFoxCanada," wrote CHEO president and CEO Alex Munter. "Let's turn today's negative energy and hostility into positive results for cancer care and research in Canada!"

The protest in Ottawa drew a massive crowd to Parliament Hill to protest COVID-19 health mandates imposed by all levels of government. Many were also protesting the Liberal government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

The protest created gridlock in Ottawa's downtown core, with the city of Ottawa warning at one point that there was "no more room for vehicles" other than emergency responders.