More than a week after arriving in Ottawa, the Canadian Freedom Convoy of big rig truckers and other supporters seeking an end to austere COVID restrictions and vaccine mandates say they remain committed to their cause and will stay put, even as the government began taking steps to shut down the protest, including encouraging GoFundMe to freeze and seize $9 million of the convoy’s fundraising haul.
The massive convoy is currently parked outside Ottawa’s Parliament building where truckers and their supporters have been protesting the government’s austere COVID restrictions and mandates for over a week. The protesters have been peaceful and downright celebratory, honking horns, holding signs, giving speeches, and singing.
However, as this past weekend approached, the government began making moves to shut the protest down, after Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau accused protesters of “hate, abuse, and racism” while also admitting that he doesn’t support the convoy’s goals.
The media has parroted similar government statements, even though the only evidence of actual violence took place this past Saturday when the driver of a white jeep purposefully plowed into another convoy protest in Winnipeg, injuring four. The driver, who sped off without aiding any of the victims, was arrested an hour later and charged with assault and other crimes. He has since been identified as David Zegerac, an admitted anarchist and Antifa activist.
Nonetheless, GoFundMe on Friday cited the government’s characterization of the Freedom Convoy as “unruly and violent” as a pretext to freeze the group’s remaining $9 million in funds. Initially, officials said they would redistribute the money to charities that they approved, but under pressure, they changed course and said they would give all the donations back to donors.
Many donors had already performed a charge-back of their donation through their credit card, citing fraud, and re-donated it to GiveSendGo. By Monday mid-afternoon, donations to the Freedom Convoy on that site had already topped $5 million USD.
GoFundMe’s sudden reversal may have been the result of several U.S. attorneys general and Republican leaders, including Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, announcing plans to launch investigations into GoFundMe for the attempted seizure of funds on fraudulent grounds. Others noted the hypocrisy of GoFundMe, which provided glowing verbal support for Black Lives Matter (BLM) amid the violent riots of 2020 in the U.S. The crowdsourcing platform never pulled any BLM or Antifa-related fundraising, despite that fact that more than 25 people were killed during the protests and riots, including eight-year-old Secoriea Turner.
In response to GoFundMe’s actions, protest organizers held a press conference on Sunday for members of the independent media. They pushed back against the characterization of their movement as violent by law enforcement and Canada’s liberal leaders, insisting that the protest has been peaceful and happy. “I’ve never seen people so joyful — Canada Day doesn’t even get like this,” organizer Benjamin Dichter said. “Terrorists? There’s bouncy castles out there.”
Hours later, however, the Ottawa mayor declared a state of emergency. Police quickly began confiscating the protesters’ fuel cans (which some supporters say could be illegal under the Charter of Rights) and dismantling their logistical camp. Ottawa police also said that anyone providing fuel to the remaining truckers would be arrested.
The Freedom Convoy has insisted previously that they have no plans to stay in Ottawa any longer than necessary, but they are determined to stick it out until the mandates are lifted.
“We are here out of love for our families, our communities, and our nation,” organizer Tamara Lich said last week.
“These past two years, the COVID mandates have divided us,” she said, explaining that the Freedom Convoy movement has taken off due to “common people” who “are tired of the mandates and restrictions in their lives that now seem to be doing more harm than good.”
Over the past weekend, Freedom Convoy protests were also held in other Canadian provinces, including Winnipeg, Toronto, Calgary, and Halifax. What’s more, the movement has spread internationally, with convoys and protests taking place in Canberra, Australia; Wellington, New Zealand; London; and Brussels. American organizers are also planning a convoy protest in Washington D.C.
While the Freedom Convoy is consistently mischaracterized by the media as an “anti-vaccine” protest, the organizers have insisted it is an anti-mandate protest. This misnomer on the part of establishment media and Canadian leaders alike only seems to have underscored the spirit behind the protest and galvanized its many supporters around the world.
What began as a protest over vaccine mandates that would restrict the ability of unvaccinated truckers to earn a steady income (as it required a 14-day quarantine for anyone returning from the U.S.) quickly evolved into a protest against elitist attitudes towards the average citizen and their refusal to respect dissident views on COVID.
No one has been more elitist in action and word than Justin Trudeau, who declared the truckers to be “members of a fringe minority” who held “unacceptable views.” His words will no doubt go down in the annals of tone-deaf political attacks alongside Hillary Clinton’s characterization of Trump supporters as a “basket of deplorables.”
This was further underscored when, just one day after the convoy arrived in Ottawa, Trudeau — who had been whisked away to an undisclosed location over safety concerns — announced that he had tested positive for COVID-19 despite being fully vaccinated.
At the end of the day, how can the prime minister gloss over or ignore the fact that amid all the uproar and conflict over mandates, he himself has proven that vaccines don’t effectively prevent the infection or transmission of COVID-19?
And how can he and other Canadian government officials continue to double-down on lockdown policies and vaccine mandates when their commonwealth mother country, the United Kingdom, has not only lifted all COVID restrictions for the average worker but is expected to soon permanently rescind a vaccine mandate for healthcare workers working directly with patients?
In response to the Freedom Convoy, the Canadian government had a chance to signal that it still respected civil liberties after spending two years locking people in their homes, masking small children, fining small businesses and dog walkers, shutting down and invading churches, and arresting pastors who defiantly gathered their flocks for Sunday worship services. Instead, it chose to not only fail to listen to the concerns of members of its working class but to viciously mischaracterize them as white supremacists and terrorists.
It’s a narrative we’ve grown all too used to in recent years as anyone who dares defy or question the far-left’s “facts” about government, science, COVID, race relations, and sex and gender or the moral hypocrisy of its political leaders.
It’s hard not to feel that in this case, the establishment has overplayed their hand. In their attempts to dismiss and quash the freedom protests, they have shown exactly why so many average citizens are enthusiastically joining and supporting it.