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Transport trucks and tractors block traffic in front of Manitoba Legislative Building in Winnipeg on Feb. 4.SHANNON VANRAES/Reuters

Protests against COVID-19 vaccine mandates and other restrictions spread Friday to Manitoba’s capital, where more than two dozen large trucks and farm vehicles blocked the main entrance to the legislature grounds and one block of a nearby street.

Large Canadian and U.S. flags flew from some trucks. Others bore signs with phrases such as “Mandate Freedom.” At least one truck’s horn blared as loudly as a train’s.

“I am just getting tired of being locked down (and) all the mandates coming in,” said Jacob Loewen, who drove in to Winnipeg from the Winkler area, more than an hour to the southwest.

“I had family that were in the hospital that we couldn’t see for a while, and that does hurt.”

Another protester, who did not give his name, said the crowd planned to stay for days.

The event appeared to have an almost festive atmosphere by midday. Classic rock blared from a sound system as people, some offering a thumbs-up, drove by in a loop. Less positive feelings were evident on signs that contained an expletive and the prime minister’s name. A few placards accused the media of lying.

Ottawa police say more officers will be deployed downtown as thousands of protesters are expected this weekend

A small counter-protest, involving less than a dozen people, was held nearby. One was dressed as the Grim Reaper with a sign saying “Get vaxxed, I need a vacation.” Another carried a sign that said “Honk if you love abortion”.

Legislature security had prepared for the protest. Entrances that were already blocked off with gates or concrete barriers were reinforced – in one case with a wall of snow.

The main entrance to the legislature grounds, usually partially open to allow vehicles to park after checking in with a security guard, was closed off completely by a row of large truck cabins involved in the protest.

Traffic was still moving on the street that runs in front of the legislature, but it was inching along as protesters lined both sides of the street and stood on the middle boulevard.

The government had already urged people to work from home, so the building was almost empty. Police urged drivers to avoid the area.

“We continue to be in communication with the organizers,” Winnipeg Police Service said in a social media post.

“They advise they are committed to keeping traffic flowing and have asked all participants to sign a code of conduct to be part of the event.”

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