Fed up with far right truck drivers and other extremist supporters in their city, residents from a neighborhood in Ottawa, Ontario, confronted and disrupted several truckers who were on their way downtown to join the so-called “Freedom Convoy.”
Upon learning that the route of some trucks was located nearby, Sean Burges, a senior instructor at Carleton University, posted in a neighborhood Facebook group about a plan to protest the truckers’ arrival, according to a report by Ottawa Citizen.
Around two dozen residents of his neighborhood initially joined him at the intersection at Riverside Drive and Bronson Avenue at 9 a.m. on Sunday — but that number soon swelled to hundreds of people taking part in the protest, stopping trucks in their paths and causing them to remain unable to turn around for several hours.
“My intent was to remind the people of Ottawa that we do have power and that we can stand up for ourselves,” Burges told Ottawa Citizen about his plan.
What I hoped was that Sunday’s stand would at least raise the possibility of constructive people power in Ottawa and maybe across Canada. The goal was to provide a spark prompting Canadians to step in and make it clear to this very vocal and small minority taking us all hostage that we have had enough.
The protest event, being hailed by many as a resounding success, is being described by local media (such as The Ottawa Citizen) as the “Battle of Billings Bridge,” named after a bridge near where it took place.
The trucks that would have been part of the convoy could not get through the crowd of people until a “negotiated retreat” was struck between them and the protesters that stopped them.
As per the terms of the retreat, the truck drivers had to remove signs, stickers and flags they had on their trucks in support of the far right convoy. They also had to surrender their jerry cans, making it more difficult for them to refuel once they reached downtown.
“The look on their faces when they were taking down their flags was one of defeat, not of pride,” said protest participant Andrea Harden.
“I don’t want to take away anyone’s right to protest, but I wanted them to hear that they’re having a negative impact on the citizens of Ottawa,” said another participant, Sean Devine.
The convoy of truckers that have descended upon the city, calling themselves the “Freedom Convoy,” have indeed made life difficult for residents of Canada’s capital city. A number of reports have been made detailing harassment by truckers against individuals on a daily basis, and forcing businesses to close if they have rules on masks or vaccines.
The convoy was initially organized after Canadian truckers were required by the federal government to get fully vaccinated if their routes took them into the United States. It has since devolved into a far right protest against any and all mitigation efforts against COVID-19 that the Canadian government has implemented, including rules on masking in certain areas.
Residents in the city have been harassed for leaving their homes if they’re wearing masks. Participants in the convoy have also torn down pro-vaccination signs on people’s private properties, and some have even defecated on the lawns of residents who showed support for mitigation efforts.
The “Freedom Convoy” itself is not representative of how most truckers in Canada feel about new vaccine regulations and other rules to quell the spread of coronavirus. Ninety percent of truck drivers in the country are already fully vaccinated, and the Canadian Trucking Alliance is opposed to the convoy disrupting life in Ottawa.
Notably, much of the convoy that has come to the city includes far right, racist and fascist elements, as evidenced by the signage and other decor participants have donned. The so-called “Freedom Convoy” was “organized by known far-right figures who have espoused Islamophobic, anti-Semitic and other hateful views,” according to the Canadian Anti-Hate Network.
“Those who support the convoy movement have lost sight of the relationship between liberty and the greater good,” wrote Henry A. Giroux for Truthout. “The convoy movement is not a struggle over freedom, it is an attempt to destroy democracy in the name of freedom.”
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