Truck convoy rolls into Kingston, Ont.
The 'freedom convoy' rolled into Kingston, Ont. early Thursday evening, the latest stop for the trucking convoy on its way to Ottawa to protest COVID-19 vaccine mandates and other government restrictions.
Dozens of people lined the Gardiners Road overpass to Hwy. 401 waiving Canadian flags and cheering as the convoy pulled off the highway. The first trucks turned off the highway at 4:45 p.m., with a larger convoy arriving shortly after 8 p.m.
"Other than some stragglers all major convoys appear to be situated for the night between Belleville, Napanee and Kingston for the region," Kingston Police said on Twitter.
Gardiners Road at Cataraqui Woods Drive to the south and Highway 38 at McIvor Road to the north were temporarily closed Thursday evening as the vehicles arrived in Kingston.
The convoy is scheduled to depart Kingston at 8:30 a.m. Friday for Ottawa. Another convoy is scheduled to travel from Kingston to Ottawa on Saturday. Motorists are also being asked to avoid Gardiners Road and Highway 38 Friday morning when the convoy departs Kingston.
"A reminder that while less disruptive, approximately 300 transport trucks and support vehicles will be turning right to go northbound on Gardiners Rd. and then eastbound on Hwy 401 at approximately 8:30 a.m. (Friday, January 28)," said police.
The convoy travelled from Vaughan, Ont. to Kingston Thursday afternoon, stopping in Port Hope and Trenton along Hwy. 401. Ministry of Transportation cameras showed crowds gathering at the Hwy. 401 and Keele interchange in Toronto to show support for the convoy as it travelled through the city.
"The information we have is that there are four separate convoys at least, including Windsor, Sarnia, Niagara Falls and the Toronto area all coming together," said Sgt. Steve Koopman of Kingston police Thursday afternoon.
Koopman says police have been planning to try to minimize traffic disruptions.
"The situation is quite dynamic because even the convoys themselves aren't 100 per cent organized or know truly what their numbers are going to be until they hit the highway and they start coming eastbound," said Koopman.
Kingston police are working with Ontario Provincial Police and other agencies to monitor the convoy.
Police in Kingston are asking motorists to avoid Gardiners Road from other access point roadways such as Creekford Road, Centennial Drive, Midland Avenue and Fortune Crescent.
During the road closures, Kingston Transit will not provide service at the INVISTA Centre, and detours will be set up.
"The convoy will be directed towards parking lots east of Gardiners Rd and/or on roadways that are likely to include Centennial Drive, Fortune Crescent, Venture Drive and Resource Road," said police.
"Motorists are asked to avoid these areas. All efforts will be made to ensure access to private businesses along these roads remain open."
The convoy of truckers and supporters protesting vaccine mandates and other public health restrictions are expected to arrive on Parliament Hill Saturday. The movement has gathered steam nationwide, with videos showing highway gatherings in support of the truckers.
The Freedom Convoy is calling for the end of vaccine mandates in Canada during the COVID-19 pandemic.
"On January 15th, a small team of Alberta truckers, their family members and friends, came to the decision that the Government of Canada has crossed a line with implementing Covid-19 vaccine passports and vaccine mandates," said a statement Wednesday on the Freedom Convoy 2022 Facebook page.
The list of demands includes the federal and provincial governments terminating the vaccine passports and all other "obligatory vaccine contact tracing programs", and terminate COVID-19 vaccine mandates.
The Canada Unity website says convoys will depart Kingston on Friday and Saturday for Ottawa.
Ontario Provincial Police are asking people to "exercise extreme caution" if you are planning to be on an overpass or at the side of the road to show support for the convoy.
"Be aware of potentially icy conditions and the danger posed by oncoming traffic and the overpasses," said the OPP.
Arnprior truck stop owner prepared for convoy
A truck stop owner in Arnprior is preparing for the convoy to arrive on Friday.
“We welcome everybody and we don’t care about their view or beliefs,” said Tom Orr, co-owner of Antrim Truck Stop.
Orr says he doesn’t know how many people will show up, but he’s prepared for hundreds throughout the weekend.
“We can serve 500 to 600 people a day here in the restaurant so we will have no problem serving as many people that come,” he said.
He says he won’t turn anyone away for their beliefs, but COVID-19 protocols will remain in place.
“If they follow the rules here, they’re welcome,” he said. “And if they don’t follow the rules then they can leave.”
Orr has received both backlash and positive feedback from the community for his approach.
“People think we should’ve closed our business to truckers,” he said. “This business was built on trucking and that would be business suicide for us.”
Businesses in Kingston
The Smoke 'N' Barrel in Kingston says it will stay open despite the road closures in the area.
"Obviously, it's a fluid situation and it's hard to predict exactly what's going to happen but we had already stocked up getting ready for hopefully a busy night in the area," said Neil Highet, managing partner of Smoke 'N' Barrel.
"With the road closing it makes things a little bit uncertain with what kind of business we might expect."
Highet says they didn't get into the business to be political, and will feed whoever wants food Thursday and Friday.
"All we know is open and close and adapting and overcoming and that's not a new thing for our industry," said Highet.
"We've certainly been under the gun a lot over the last two years but adapting and overcoming is what we do in the restaurant business and again. We're about hospitality."
With files from CTV News Ottawa's Michael Woods, Natalie van Rooy and CTV News Toronto.
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