Last year, Justin Trudeau, unlike Trump, was reelected to head his country's government. I wasn't paying close attention but I noticed that yesterday, Trump was ranting and raving in one of his official statements about how Justin Trudeau is a "far left lunatic" who has "destroyed Canada." I figured it was just another manifestation of Trump's jealousy because Trudeau won 3 terms and Trump only won one and that Trudeau is handsome and vigorous and Trump is ugly and approaching death, a death, in fact, that will be widely celebrated. But I should have paid closer attention. Trump's eruption was more significant than petty pique. He's stoking violence-- and not just in Canada. He wants to provoke a confrontation between truck drivers and law enforcement-- on both sides of the border.
As Bloomberg News reported this morning, "Even in a society known for its civility and deference to authority, many Canadians are reaching their limit. Pent-up frustration and rage have burst into the downtown core of the nation’s capital, with hundreds of truckers and other protesters occupying Ottawa’s streets for nearly a week to oppose vaccine mandates. Protests are expanding across Canada this weekend and are threatening to spill over into the U.S. with demonstrators planning a convoy to Washington, D.C."
This is the story of the so-called "Freedom Convoy" that Trump and other Republicans-- including South African Tesla billionaire, fascist Elon Musk, are counting on to start violent civil unrest-- on both sides of the border. Friday, Politico brought their readers up to date regarding what's been going down in Canada: "The protest against anti-vaccine mandates in Canada, a country that boasts some of the highest vaccination rates in the world, has disrupted streets around Parliament Hill and cost Trudeau’s former Conservative rival his job." Keep in mind the first 3 letters of the p.r.-created "Convoy" that Trump is trying to replicate in Washington.
“Our goal is to end the demonstration,” Ottawa Police Chief Peter Sloly said Friday morning, acknowledging that the extended protest has led to “a lot of unacceptable and unlawful activities.”
The demonstrators are “highly organized, well funded, extremely committed to resisting all attempts to end the demonstrations safely,” he said.
“Freedom Convoy 2022” organizers raised more than C$10 million on GoFundMe. Convoys of semis, trucks and cars arrived last Friday from across the country, organized by individuals with extremist views, drawing a crowd of approximately 8,000 people last weekend, according to police.
A loud cacophony of semi-truck horns, honks and a portable train horn has been omnipresent on the Hill. At night, fireworks have been set off to the ongoing dismay of nearby residents. Police have blocked traffic in parts of downtown to limit vehicles in the area, preventing some home care workers from accessing area residents living with disabilities.
The convoy has led to an increased security presence on the Hill where the work of Parliament continued this week.
Some protesters have pledged to stay until federal, provincial and territorial governments end all vaccine mandates. Far-right groups are part of the demonstration, too, calling for a coup.
On Feb. 2, GoFundMe paused the fundraiser saying “recent events” prompted the company to take closer review of organizers’ plan for the money. The company had been called on by a parliamentary committee to ensure funds would not be used to “promote extremism, white supremacy, anti-Semitism and other forms of hate, which have been expressed among prominent organizers for the truck convoy currently in Ottawa.”
On Friday, GoFundMe issued a statement saying “the previously peaceful demonstration has become an occupation, with police reports of violence and other unlawful activity” and thus had violated its terms of service. With only C$1 million released from the C$10 million raised, donors are eligible to request a full refund by Feb. 19.
Potential foreign interference is also on the minds of politicians and police as the boisterous anti-vaccine occupation digs into its second week.
Ottawa police have told reporters “a significant element from the United States” is involved in the funding and organization of the protest.
Trump used news of the frozen campaign to promote his social media platform. “We are welcoming the Freedom Convoy with open arms to communicate freely on TruthSocial when we launch-- coming very soon!” he said in a statement.
While a majority of protesters left after last weekend, others remained, encamped on the Hill. Cars and semis are illegally parked on roads, blocking traffic. The nearby Rideau Centre mall closed for the week after maskless protesters harassed shop employees.
Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson and police initially cited a high threat of violence for not ticketing and removing convoy-associated vehicles-- but their comments brought swift, widespread criticism about double standards in policing.
The ongoing occupation has attracted a motley crew. From fully vaccinated citizens who oppose government mandates to members of hate groups with their own agendas to followers of Romana Didulo, Canada’s QAnon “Queen,” the commonality is a disdain for Trudeau.
“Fuck Trudeau” flags are commonplace as are chants of “Freedom” and calls to end lockdowns, which are made by provincial and municipal jurisdictions. The country’s national war memorial has been fenced off since individuals were filmed dancing on top of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
There are other distasteful messages on display, too. Signs bearing the Star of David display flippant messages equating the choice to be unvaccinated with the persecution of Jews during the Holocaust.
Federal politicians spent the week denouncing symbols of hate, including Confederate and Nazi flags, spotted in the crowd. Stockpiles of propane and diesel accrued by convoyers near the prime minister’s office have also raised security concerns.
Ottawa Centre MP Yasir Naqvi offered a field report in the House of Commons on Friday: “Members of my community are being harassed, being subjected to hurtful and racist symbols, and the incessant honking is unbearable,” he said.
“Our parking lots are being used as urinals, fireworks are being hurled down streets at night and the air is thick with diesel fuel. Residents are not sleeping and businesses are shuttered.”
With protesters expected to descend downtown again this weekend, police have added 150 officers to ground patrol.
Between 300 and 400 vehicles are expected downtown in an attempt to join the convoy, police told reporters Friday, as well as 2,000 people on foot. The protests are growing, organized in other cities this weekend including Toronto, Quebec City and Winnipeg. Counter-protesters are also expected.
...While a disdain for Trudeau links the various groups of protesters on the Hill, the convoy catalyzed the removal of Erin O’Toole as federal Conservative leader by members of his own caucus this week. Some considered his sluggish support for the convoy as the last straw in 18 months of flip flops since he assumed leadership of the party.
O’Toole was viewed as a moderate who campaigned as a “true blue” Conservative. But when he unveiled a climate plan, including a plan to put a price on pollution, many in the party viewed it as a red line.
Discord came to a head Wednesday when members triggered a secret ballot leadership vote to oust O’Toole. The 73-45 result was a decisive referendum on his leadership; Manitoba MP Candice Bergen was later voted to be interim leader.
Her appointment reflects support to push the party to the right, away from the center where O’Toole attempted to score support from disenchanted Liberals.
Bergen has been supportive of the convoy, which began as a protest against the federal government’s vaccine mandate for cross-border truckers. The U.S. implemented a similar mandate two weeks ago.
While Conservative MPs repeated mantras of unity after O’Toole’s ouster, less than 24 hours after Bergen’s appointment, an internal email dated Monday was leaked to media to show that she advocated against asking the protesters to go home.
“I understand the mood may shift soon. So we need to turn this into the PM’s problem,” read the email obtained by the Globe and Mail. It was sent to senior caucus leadership.
Two caucus members have broken rank with the new leader.
“I spent the week undergoing the Siege of Ottawa,” Quebec MP Pierre Paul-Hus tweeted Friday. “I ask that we clear the streets and that we stop this occupation controlled by radicals and anarchist groups.”
Paul-Hus’ message is a stark contrast to other members of the Conservative caucus who went out to support and pose with truckers.
Nunavut Senator Dennis Patterson quit the Conservative caucus Friday, citing repulsion with a movement whose interpretation of freedom includes tolerance with the display of Confederate and Nazi flags, and desecration of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
“I wholeheartedly and unreservedly deplore and denounce what is happening in Ottawa with the so-called Freedom Convoy right now,” he said.
Since then, more right-wing Republicans in America have begun interfering and DeSantis wants to show he's more aggressive than Trump. He's accusing Go Fund Me of fraud for taking down their page for donations to the trucker movement and refunding all the money ($10 million)-- much of it fraudulently under made up names-- possibly from sources like Musk and other right-wing billionaires with nefarious agendas. Some of the Ottawa protesters have been waving Confederate, Nazi and Trump flags, the same way Trump demonstrators do in the U.S.
Ottawa residents are furious at the police passivity against the violence and racism of the protesters and are demanding that the streets be cleared. On Friday, the Ottawa police indicated "a more confrontational stance."
It was naпve of police to think the protest was going to “magically de-escalate itself,” said Regina Bateson, a University of Ottawa professor who studies politics and collective action.
“There is just no reason to believe these people are going to become more moderate over time, or that they’re simply going to up and leave, or they’re becoming less organized over time,” she said.
“To the contrary, they’re becoming more organized as time goes on. They’re developing more capacity to act collectively, potentially to carry out violence or to do risky things. And they’re probably attracting more extreme elements now than they were in the beginning.”
Police Chief Peter Sloly at midday Saturday reported 1,000 vehicles, roughly 5,000 protesters and at least 300 counterprotesters in his city’s streets. That was fewer people than there were in last weekend’s protests but a large increase since Friday.
“This city is under siege,” said Sloly. “This is a threat to our democracy. There’s a nationwide insurrection,” he added. “This is madness.”
One man rode a horse down Wellington Street, the main road in front of Parliament, waving a “Trump 2024” flag, while diesel fumes and the soundtrack of the protests-- a cacophony of deafening horns, revving engines and chants of “Freedom!”-- filled the air on a sunny and chilly afternoon.
The original protest convoy, which started to voice opposition to vaccination mandates and against Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, is attracting people with wider grievances and more radical positions.
“The moderates went back to work on Monday,” Bateson said. “They went home and sent their kids back to school. The more extreme folks stayed.
...Pat King, a far-right personality who has become an unofficial leadership figure at the protest, in a Friday livestream issued his own warning about the weekend.
He told supporters he is expecting “another million people” and more trucks to arrive and said there would be a fireworks display.
He accused Ottawa police of encouraging a counter-protest with dangerous elements of antifa (anti-fascist activists) who will try to spark violence.
“You’re putting a lot of peaceful protesters at risk,” King said. “It’s your duty to protect the public,” he said of police.
In another broadcast Friday, he cast the occupation in war terms, saying soldiers had fought for the rights of Canadians in the past, adding: “You haven’t had to fight for your rights, until now.”
Yesterday, the NY Times summed up the situation this way: "What began last month with truckers complaining about mandated vaccines for crossing the border from the United States has grown into a catchall movement for a variety of antigovernment causes, laying bare deep resentments within Canada’s political right." Copycat metastasizing anti-vaxxer demonstrations have begun popping up all over Canada and Trump and his allies are working furiously to bring them to the U.S. as well. A Toronto demonstrator sounds as stupid as anyone in Tennessee: "We're all sick and tired of the mandates, of the intimidation, of living in one big prison. We just want to go back to normal without having to take into our veins the poison which they call vaccines."
The well-organized blockade, which police say has relied partly on funding from sympathizers in the United States, saw protesters bring in portable saunas on Saturday to combat frigid temperatures.
...Tesla CEO Elon Musk, who has previously criticized vaccine mandates, called GoFundMe "professional thieves." Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and other Republican state lawmakers vowed to investigate the California-based company over the move.
CNN reported this morning that one of the protesters drove a jeep into 4 people in Winnipeg and then fled the scene but was later arrested by the police and "now faces a slew of charges, including assault with a weapon, dangerous operation of a conveyance, and failure to stop after an accident." An 29 year old American in Vancouver was arrested for throwing eggs and stoking violence. And by the way, remember that if you're considering buying a Tesla, you'll be helping to fund fascism.