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Thousands gather in downtown Victoria for truckers' rally against pandemic restrictions

Traffic jam Saturday afternoon along Douglas from Uptown to downtown amid a constant, very loud chorus of truck and car horns

Hundreds of vehicles from industrial trucks to mini vans and everything in between choked the Trans Canada Highway and Douglas Street Saturday afternoon as they headed to the B.C. legislature to take part in the Island’s own convoy and rally to coincide with the massive protest in Ottawa.

Draped in Canadian flags and carrying signs demanding an end to vaccine passport mandates, economic restrictions and in some cases mandatory vaccinations, thousands of people made their way to the lawns of the legislature.

There were those in the crowd, estimated by Victoria police to have numbered 5,000 at one point, who said they had been vaccinated but felt the restrictions and mandates had gone on long enough and it was time for the country to get back to normal.

Others were adamant they would never get the vaccine and were calling for an end to vaccine requirements at job sites and an end to having to show vaccination status to enter some venues.

Crews set up for the protest at the legislature early Saturday, and later in the morning there were hundreds on the lawn, many carrying Canadian flags and waving at passing vehicles that blared horns in solidarity. That small gathering grew as the day passed and in the early afternoon Douglas Street was jammed with horn-sounding vehicles from the corner of Belleville Street all the way past Uptown shopping centre.

By that time, slow-moving convoys of big rigs, heavy industrial trucks and smaller cars that started in the North Island in the early morning had picked up vehicles and steam through the day and hit the outskirts of Victoria. The convoys — “Convoy 4 Truckers” and a “Convoy to End Mandates” — which met with small crowds of support in towns along the way, stopped to add more bodies and vehicles before arriving in Victoria.

There were hockey sticks with flags attached waving from cars and tied to trucks, and more signs with pointed messages for Canadian politicians and health authorities to roll back their rules and mandates.

The rally may only have represented a small percentage of the population, but the noise level was high, with a constant sound track of honking horns, while the neighbourhoods around the legislature were dotted all afternoon with cars in Canadian-flag livery and others with demands for politicians to resign written on their windows.

The rally, organized by We Unify Canada, a group that claims to push for a more open democracy, lined up speakers for the event that included Kari Simpson of FrontLine Canada, which has railed against vaccine mandates, and former Newfoundland premier Brian Peckford, who is part of group that has applied for a judicial review of the federal transportation minister’s decision to limit mobility of Canadians based on their vaccination status.

Police were on scene during the rally and had been advising residents that traffic in the city was disrupted by “severe traffic congestion” and to avoid the area. Victoria police spokesman Cam MacIntyre said the event was peaceful and had diminished significantly by 5:30 p.m.

B.C. Transit issued a series of service notices through the day, noting service was not possible into parts of James Bay. The legislature terminus was closed and buses instead ended their routes near the corner of Burdett and Douglas streets.

Businesses near the legislature reported problems having to deal with a lack of parking for regular customers, though some expected some extra business from the rally participants later in the day.

> Thousands gather on Parliament Hill for massive protest against vaccine mandates