• Trevor Greenway

ByWard resident takes on ‘scary characters’

Former Chelsea resident harassed by downtown protestors

John Hennessy has had enough of the “bullies and goons” holding Ottawa hostage.


The former Chelsea resident who now lives in the ByWard Market was surrounded by a group of demonstrators and harassed as he was walking along Rideau Street on Feb. 11. In a widely shared video online, you can see the protesters – about a dozen of them – quickly close in on Hennessy and begin chanting “freedom” over and over as he tries to speak to reporters.


ByWard Market resident John Hennessy was surrounded by a group of protestors on Feb. 11 while he walked downtown near his home. The former Chelsea resident has been dealing with excessive noise, partying and deafening air horns from big rigs parked downtown as part of the Freedom Convoy. Graham Richardson, CTV Ottawa photo
ByWard Market resident John Hennessy was surrounded by a group of protestors on Feb. 11 while he walked downtown near his home. The former Chelsea resident has been dealing with excessive noise, partying and deafening air horns from big rigs parked downtown as part of the Freedom Convoy. Graham Richardson, CTV Ottawa photo

While he wasn’t harmed in the incident, it is confrontations like these that he said make him feel unsafe living downtown these days.


“There are some scary, scary characters that are involved, particularly at Rideau and Sussex; it is dangerous,” Hennessy told the Low Down. “The folks that were standing around me, they wanted something to happen. They were very, very aggressive.”


Hennessy has been dealing with the excessive noise, late-night partying, fireworks and air horns from the scores of big rigs parked 100 metres from his apartment building since they rolled into Ottawa as part of the Freedom Convoy on Jan. 29. As of publishing date, the convoy has been occupying downtown Ottawa for more than two full weeks. At its peak last weekend, Hennessy said the noise reading inside his apartment was at 80 decibels.


“I was beside myself with the noise when the horns were going on. Ten or 11 days of those horns,” he said. “The noise was completely untenable. I needed to have white noise generators on and TV or radio in the background just to get to the point where maybe I could sleep.”


On Feb. 14, after 17 days of chaos, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau enacted the Emergencies Act for the first time in Canada’s history, “to supplement provincial and territorial capacity to address the blockades and occupations.”


The Emergencies Act gives police more power to restore order and also gives banks sweeping powers to freeze convoy funding.


“Here in our capital city, families, small businesses have been enduring illegal obstruction of their neighborhoods, occupying the streets, harassing people and breaking the law. This is not a peaceful protest,” Trudeau said. “This is about keeping Canadians safe, protecting people’s jobs and restoring confidence in our institutions.”


Ontario Premier Doug Ford also declared a province-wide state of emergency last week to signal the need for more help from all levels of government to deal with the ongoing protests in Ottawa and Windsor.


Meanwhile, 21-year-old Ottawa resident Zexi Li launched a $9.8 million class-action lawsuit against Freedom Convoy organizers last week. The lawsuit led to an Ottawa judge granting a 10-day injunction for incessant honking. Convoy counter-protests blocking convoys from a residential neighbourhood garnered significant support during the Feb.11-12 weekend.


Hennessy, who also does digital consulting for several ByWard Market businesses, said that his clients have not been faring well over the past two weeks during the protest-turned-occupation.


“I hear from the businesses in the ByWard Market, and through all of COVID, they have never been quieter,” he said. “[People] are not coming here, they’re not doing business, they’re afraid, and it’s up and down the ByWard Market.”


Chelsea resident and ByWard Market pizzeria owner Dave Mangano told the Low Down on Feb. 6 that business is down 80 per cent at his Grand Pizzeria on George Street, adding, “everybody is suffering,” due to the ongoing occupation.