‘Everyone is full of joy here,’ Quebec protesters say, but truck horns set angry tone

Protesters fill the air with a mix of blaring truck horns and dance music as they speak out against COVID restrictions.

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QUEBEC – Their anti-government signs and blaring horns set an angry tone in the capital, but there was also an air of festivity as protesters amassed this weekend in front of the National Assembly.

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As snow pelted the frigid city, dozens of trucks parked on either side of the legislature Saturday, on Grande-Allée and René-Levesque Blvd., blaring their horns, waving flags and displaying signs, some with vulgar messages against the premier, prime minister and news media outlets.

The protesters are not satisfied with the Legault government’s schedule to gradually ease all COVID-19 health measures by March 14. They want the government to revoke the health emergency declaration and mask mandates in schools.

About 100 meters from where the trucks were parked, the sounds of blaring truck horns were drowned out by dance music and a festive atmosphere that took hold, with dancing, parents pushing young children in strollers, or carrying them on their shoulders, and a cheering crowd in the gardens in front of the National Assembly. Kiosks were selling merchandise and hot drinks. There were also people dressed as popular children’s mascots: Everest from the Paw Patrol, Cookie Monster, and Mario from the Mario Bros. video game. Balloons and plush toys were handed out to children, while dozens of stuffed animals were adorned on trees, lampposts, security barriers and other objects.

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“Everyone is full of joy here,” said Marie-Lynne Morin, a trucker who made the three-and-a-half-hour trip from Mont-Julie. We are frustrated with the government because they want to violate our rights. People died for our freedom, and now they want to abolish all this. ”

Standing near the protest’s main stage with a large box, Morin was doing swift business, handing out black T-shirts bearing a QR code with a red line through it; the backs of the shirts read #librechoix. The T-shirts were selling for $ 20 each.

Morin said even if the government rolls back restrictions, she will not be satisfied until she hears they will never be reintroduced.

Steps away, Dave Normand, who came from the Montmagny-Est region, was holding a sign with images of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Premier François Legault with Xs over their mouths. He said the time has come to speak out.

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Protesters line the road near the National Assembly in Quebec City on Saturday, Feb.  19, 2022.
Protesters line the road near the National Assembly in Quebec City on Saturday, Feb. 19, 2022. Photo by Francis Vachon /Montreal Gazette

“We’ve had enough of COVID, enough of being restricted in all our movements with no right to do anything or say anything,” he said. “We are here and we have had enough. We want to get back our rights and freedoms. We’re not terrorists. We have the right to protest. ”

Earlier, a couple walking up the old city’s steep hills with their 3-year-old boy in tow said they traveled 60 kilometers, from Portneuf, to join the protest.

“We are here to protest against the mandates. We are not against vaccinations, we just want people to have the choice, ”said the woman, who declined to give her name.

Quebec City resident Jean-Pierre Godin agreed: “I’m against masks. They want to bring us into a sort of dictatorship. ”

On Sunday, Quebec City resident Joshua Peitz held a sign that read: “COVID negative and single.”

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He said despite the humorous nature of his sign, his message is a grave one.

“I really find it sad that nobody my age is here,” he said. “All my friends in Ontario are totally against what I’m doing. They think that I’m a Trump supporter. That’s not the case. I want freedom forever. ”

He added he was disappointed with the smaller crowd Sunday and said it may be due to the crackdown in Ottawa, as the cause had been dealt a blow.

“I hope to see more people join the parade and see if things change.”

Freedom Convoy arrives in Quebec City

Posted by Montreal Gazette on Saturday, February 19, 2022

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A block away in the St-Jean-Baptiste neighborhood, a resident was holding a grocery bag in one hand and balancing a pie box from a local bakery in the other. He said the government should not tolerate such a protest on the streets.

“They can protest on foot too, and legally,” said Christian Bigué, who has lived in the area for 20 years. “They do not have to be in a truck to protest. They’re taking up space. ”

jmagder@postmedia.com

twitter.com/jasonmagder

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