On Wednesday, American truckers commenced a cross-country drive from California to Washington, D.C., to petition governments (local, state, and especially federal) to end all COVID-19 mandates. Known as The People’s Convoy, the group was inspired by the Canadian Freedom Convoy that was broken up over the weekend and effectively serves to spread its message within the United States.
The goal is to arrive in the capital early in March to pressure the Biden Administration into ending any formal federal emergencies pertaining to the pandemic. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has approved a request from the District of Columbia government and the U.S. Capitol police for 700 National Guard troops, widespread fencing, and 50 armored vehicles in anticipation.
Capitol Police said they were aware of several trucker convoys expected to converge on Washington around the time of President Joe Biden’s State of the Union address on March 1st. Some of these have shown up already, though their stated grievances lack the focus of The People’s Convoy and its Canadian predecessor. Truckers arriving early seem genuinely concerned about the state of the nation and the long-term financial ramifications of government mandates while expressing solidarity with the Freedom Convoy. But the resulting interviews are scattershot, representing the personal frustrations of individual demonstrators more than the organized message of the larger convoys.
The People’s Convoy shared its position with the public on February 20th, several days before trucks began rolling out of Adelanto Stadium in Southern California:
This convoy is about freedom and unity: the truckers are riding unified across party and state lines and with people of all colors and creeds – Christians, Muslims, Jews, Sikhs, Mormons, Agnostics, Blacks, Hispanics, Asians, Native Americans, Republican, Democrats. All individuals are welcome to participate by either attending the launch gathering – at 10:00 a.m. on Wednesday February 23, at Adelanto Stadium – or by getting in their own vehicles and following the big rigs from Adelanto toward the east coast!
The message of The People’s Convoy is simple. The last 23 months of the COVID-19 pandemic have been a rough road for all Americans to travel: spiritually, emotionally, physically, and – not least – financially. With the advent of the vaccine and workable therapeutic agents, along with the hard work of so many sectors that contributed to declining COVID-19 cases and severity of illness, it is now time to re-open the country. The average American worker needs to be able to end-run the economic hardships of the last two years, and get back to the business of making bread – so they can pay their rents and mortgages and help jumpstart this economy. To that end, it’s time for elected officials to work with the blue collar and white-collar workers of America and restore accountability and liberty – by lifting all mandates and ending the state of emergency – as COVID is well-in-hand now, and Americans need to get back to work in a free and unrestricted manner.
Organizers have said the movement is nonpartisan and loaded up with people from all walks of life. While truckers and retired military are said to be the ones handling logistics, they’re welcoming anybody interested in helping and have made their planned route public to encourage others to join the convoy.
Meanwhile, the Canadian Freedom Convoy is licking its wounds outside the confines of a checkpoint-laden Ottawa. Smaller convoys have reformed at nearby farms and truck stops. But the resident members have said there is presently no plan to do anything other than wait. Many truckers have gone home and those that have remained proximal to Ottawa seem primarily interested in getting reorganized after the unprecedented actions taken by the government.
On February 14th, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau invoked the Emergencies Act to bring to an end to demonstrations he described as illegal. This prompted Ottawa Police Chief Peter Sloly to resign after being criticized in the media for being overly sympathetic to the truckers.
His replacement, interim chief Steve Bell, took the complete opposite approach. With a direct confrontation looming, hesitant local officers were reportedly being supplanted by Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Additional cops were bussed in from other departments and the city purchased several towing vehicles after local operators ended up siding with the demonstrators. The following days saw several protest organizers arrested. Personal bank accounts were also frozen in an attempt to cripple the convoy’s leadership.
But the big push came on February 18th. Police had created over a hundred checkpoints across Ottawa and began aggressively driving protestors (and just about everyone else) away from Parliament Hill. While the weekend resulted in an apparent victory for Trudeau and his Liberal government, the heavy-handed nature of the response ultimately made it a hollow one.
Canadian finance minister Chrystia Freeland had said that the Emergencies Act granted the government new powers over crowdfunding platforms and payment-service providers. It also provided it with the ability to freeze bank accounts and seize the assets of regular citizens without any oversight. Freeland said those provisions would remain “permanently in place.”
At roughly the same time, Ottawa’s interim police chief was issuing threats to anybody who bothered to attend the three-week event that was designed to discourage the government from enacting overbearing policies on the citizenry.
“If you are involved in this protest, we will actively look to identify you and follow up with financial sanctions and criminal charges,” Bell said on February 19th. “This investigation will go on for months to come. It has many, many different streams both from a federal financial level, from a provincial licensing level, from a Criminal Code level, from a municipal breach of court order, breach of court injunction level.”
The combined approach worked in removing truckers from Ottawa. By February 20th, authorities had suspended 11 commercial trucking licenses, towed 50 vehicles, and arrested 170 protestors. But financial sanctions, property seizures, and arrests continued even after the convoy had disbanded, arguably making Trudeau a global pariah. International and domestic leaders began accusing him of despotism while public opinion remained fractured along ideological lines. This only worsened as independent and corporate journalists shared footage of police trampling protestors with horses, pulling truckers from their cabs, beating individuals on the ground, intimidating local business owners, and allegedly harassing random passersby who were simply in the area.
In the United States, a Trafalgar Group study showed 65.7 percent of Democrats supporting Trudeau’s handling of the Freedom Convoy. However, an overwhelming majority of conservative and independent voters (87.3 and 74.4 percent, respectively) opposed the actions taken. Overall, that meant only 35.1 percent of Americans polled actually backed the Canadian crackdown, with 55.3 percent siding with the truckers and the rest having no opinion.
Trudeau pulled an about-face on February 23rd and revoked the Emergencies Act.
“Today, after careful consideration, we’re ready to confirm that the situation is no longer an emergency. Therefore, the federal government will be ending the use of the Emergencies Act,” the prime minister said during a news conference held on Wednesday, adding that the government would continue keeping tabs on those challenging its power.
“Let’s be very clear: The threat continues. We do see, whether it’s social media activity or people who continue to be focused on protesting, and perhaps illegally protesting, that we need to be monitoring,” he said.
It’s unclear how the coming days will progress. The Freedom Convoy’s tactical retreat doesn’t appear to have hurt its cause. Despite Canada’s Liberal government being in broad agreement that its full force should be leveraged against civil disobedience, the truckers have encouraged their nearest neighbor to similarly utilize motor vehicles as tools of liberty. They also said they’re not abandoning the cause until all COVID mandates have been nullified and less truck-heavy demonstrations have continued in other Canadian cities. But Trudeau’s abandonment of the Emergencies Act doesn’t necessarily preclude authorities from continuing to pressure financial institutions to freeze the bank accounts of additional protestors.
Americans will be confronting different problems. Unlike Ottawa, Washington will be well prepared for any organized demonstrations. Truckers have said they’ll be adapting their tactics to contend with the National Guard and Capitol Police while remaining peaceful in their actions. The six-mile convoy’s official arrival date is scheduled for March 5th. However smaller groups of trucks will likely be trickling into D.C. every day this week. Those interested can watch any number of streams covering the progress of The People’s Convoy in real-time or wait around and see what legacy media outlets have to say after the fact.
[Image: Vitpho/Shutterstock; Benoit Daoust/Shutterstock; Gary A Corcoran Arts/Shutterstock]
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