The Freedom Convoy became a movement with global support, where trucks and protesters oppose vaccine mandates not only in Canada but also in other countries where the rule became an imposition against the will of millions of citizens.
What is the Freedom Convoy?
For more than a week, Ottawa, the Canadian capital, has been taken over by hundreds of trucks and demonstrators blocking the main avenues downtown in protest against the restrictions imposed by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
The demonstrators, who call themselves the “Freedom Convoy,” were joined by a crowd protesting against health restrictions following a two-year pandemic, and against the Trudeau government.
The protests have received support outside Canada being replicated to a lesser extent in the United States, United Kingdom, Australia and Finland. Meanwhile, Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson decided to declare a “state of emergency” in the face of an “out of control” situation, in the hope of gaining “support from other jurisdictions.”
Watson said the increasingly noisy demonstrations posed a “serious danger and threat to the safety and security of residents.” What the protesters are calling for, however, is the elimination of health measures such as vaccine passport.
“The situation at this point is completely out of control. The individuals with the protest are calling the shots,” Watson said in an interview with CFRA, a local radio station. “They have far more people than we have police officers,” he admitted.
Demonstrations spread around the world
The border crossing between the cities of Detroit (United States) and Windsor (Canada) was closed this Monday on the Canadian side by the group of truckers. Meanwhile, in Europe, protests are multiplying in support of what is happening in Canada.
Australian drivers were inspired by the Canadian “Freedom Convoy” to drive to Canberra to protest against the vaccination mandates. However, the Victorian premier warned that booster vaccinations will soon be mandatory. The protest was joined by drivers from New South Wales, Queensland, Victoria and Western Australia to drive thousands of kilometers.
Last Friday, February 4, demonstrators from Finland’s Freedom Convoy also protested against vaccine mandates in Helsinki. The protest calls for the halving of fuel taxes, the abolition of all measures against the Coronavirus and the resignation of the Finnish government.
Also this Monday, February 7, demonstrators against mandatory vaccination in Westminster in London came out to protest in support of the Freedom Convoy in solidarity with the Ottawa truckers in Canada.
When did the protests begin?
Last January 29, the truckers began to mobilize against the decision to force them to be vaccinated to cross the border with the United States.
The truckers’ demonstration started from Vancouver to Ottawa on January 23 and, after traveling more than 4,300 kilometers in six days, they arrived in the Canadian capital to demand that the prime minister revoke the health order.
The truckers allege that the restriction will lead many of them to lose their jobs and that the rule will force them to quarantine every time they cross the border.
More than 250 trucks have been parked in downtown Ottawa for more than a week. Their owners have set up a “camp” in front of Parliament, with wooden structures, bouncy castles, portable toilets, generators and even pizza ovens.
Last Monday, some drivers blocked traffic on the Ambassador Bridge, a key crossing between Windsor, Ontario and Detroit, CBC reported. They also got the backing of more than 100 Alaskan truckers who rallied in support of the convoy, according to Anchorage Daily News.
Criminalization of protest: what does the Trudeau government say?
According to Ottawa police there are not enough resources to evict the trucks so they decided to impose fines on those who supply the protesters. In addition, according to reports, there are already more than 400 fines for the noise of horns and the use of fireworks.
Police also made several arrests over the weekend and confiscated fuel from some demonstrators.
Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Monday, February 7, accused the protesters of “blocking democracy,” and demanded an end to the protest.
“Canadians have the right to protest, to disagree with their government, and to make their voices heard. We’ll always protect that right. But let’s be clear: They don’t have the right to blockade our economy, or our democracy, or our fellow citizens’ daily lives. It has to stop,” the prime minister said.
GoFundMe, fund diversion and the funding of the Freedom Convoy
Renowned fundraising platform GoFundMe denied $10 million to Freedom Convoy organizers on the grounds that they violated its policies. However, in the face of the denial, two new alternatives emerged for protesters.
GoFundMe said Friday that it had removed a fundraiser for the convoy that had raised more than $8 million because it allegedly violated its terms of service.
The company said it had released an initial $1 million donation to Freedom Convoy organizers last week after they provided a clear distribution plan and confirmed it would only be used for those participating in a peaceful protest. But they later called the peaceful demonstration “an occupation.”
It further expressed that no additional funds would be distributed to its organizers and instead donors would have two weeks to submit a refund request, said it would then work with the convoy organizers to send the remaining money to other charities.
GoFundMe’s decision drew the ire of conservatives on both sides of the border and drew special scrutiny from several Republican attorneys general, who vowed to investigate the platform.