Ranya Merchant — Editor-In-Chief
A three-week-long protest in Canada against pandemic measures disturbed trade in one of Canada’s largest cities, costing billions in trade delays, tens of millions in lost sales for businesses, and leaving behind a hefty policing and clean-up tab.
These protests began on Jan 28th when hundreds of trucks and vehicles rolled into Ottowa’s downtown, expressing their outrage at the government with non-stop horn honking and refusal to move. Spawning from a hatred for a policy for mandatory vaccination of transport truck drivers crossing the U.S border, the blockade quickly turned into a demonstration against all pandemic restrictions and the Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau.
During the occupation, pedestrians in Ottowa were harassed and ultimately forced to stay off the streets for some time.
Moreen Valentine, a citizen of Ottowa said the occupation completely disrupted her daily life. “I feel like my city is under siege. It’s been a month since I haven’t had access to services I use daily,” said Valentine.
The group of truck drivers and supporters responsible for the occupation have self-proclaimed themselves as the “freedom convoy.”
On a platform that hosts a crowdfunding campaign for the Convoy, which was kicked off GoFundMe for violating its rule against “the promotion of violence and harassment,” organizers state that coronavirus rules and mandates “are destroying the foundation of our businesses, industries, and livelihoods.”
“We are taking our fight to the doorsteps of our Federal Government and demanding that they cease all mandates against its people,” they write.
Chrystia Freeland, Canada’s deputy prime minister, and finance minister detailed the costs of the protests. Blockades at border crossings in Coutts, Alberta, and Emerson, Manitoba, had lost more than $68 million in daily trade.
The nearly week-long blockade at the Ambassador Bridge — the busiest crossing on the U.S.-Canada land border, had choked off more than $300 million per day.
“These illegal barricades are doing great damage to Canada’s economy and to our reputation as a reliable trading partner,” said Freeland.
The occupation ended officially on February, 20 after a 3 day operation by the Ottawa police who deployed pepper spray and stun grenades to disperse crowds, towed away over 70 vehicles, and arrested 191 people, bringing a total of 389 charges against 103 of them.
Trudeau says that the protests will likely continue and more police force will be required in the future. “The job is not done yet and work is expected to continue to bring an end to the illegal blockades and occupations,” he said
Still, the Canadian protests have only marked the beginning of a larger movement against vaccinations and pandemic measures.
Modeled after the Canadian “freedom convoy,” truck drivers in the United States are planning on setting off on a massive cross-country drive towards Washington, DC to protest against coronavirus restrictions.
Many of those behind the demonstration, which was planned as an American version of the past month’s chaotic Canadian protest, have connections to the violent attack on the Capitol in January 2021 or supported the lie that fraud in the 2020 presidential election was to blame for Donald Trump’s loss.
“We’re just trying to show what the people who back us believe — and our own beliefs — of what our country needs to go back to,” said Jeff Sandberg, a Republican truck driver from Texas who plans to take part in the protest.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki says the protest will have a grave impact on the country“Whatever their intended, stated purpose is, this effort is going to have, has the potential to have, a huge impact on workers and the American public,”
Still, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is certain of the national guard’s ability to protect citizens and contain the occupation. “They have a good handle on what the expectation is. “I feel confident,” said Pelosi.