The Freedom Convoy that originated in Canada last month has gained an incredible amount of momentum, garnering loads of support from citizens around the world. Sympathetic protests seem to be erupting everywhere while the original group of truckers remain planted on the streets of Ottawa to demand an end to government mandates. But honking at Parliament Hill for two weeks was only a portion of the convoy’s grand strategy.
Large groups of truckers have broken off to create blockades at meaningful border crossings, gaining control of North America’s already ailing supply lines. The most recent example resulted in the taking of the Ambassador Bridge in Detroit, an essential trade crossing for both the United States and Canada. Truckers have held the bridge for five days and automakers have begun announcing shutdowns due to supply issues. Meanwhile, the Canadian government has begun discussing an end to lockdown measures after failing to stop the protests and other nations appear poised to follow in its footsteps.
It’s estimated that the Ambassador Bridge is responsible for the transportation of over $300 million in goods every single day and roughly one-sixth of that is auto parts. On Thursday, Toyota announced that it would need to idle its facilities in Ontario for the week.
“Due to a number of supply chain, severe weather and COVID related challenges, Toyota continues to face shortages affecting production at our North American plants, including Toyota Motor Manufacturing Canada,” the company said in its statement. “Our teams are working diligently to minimize the impact on production. While the situation is fluid and changes frequently, we do not anticipate any impact to employment at this time,” a spokesperson told Newsweek.
While the automotive sector been cautious not to mention the protests, additional shutdowns have been announced. General Motors has reportedly been forced to cancel a second shift due to a lack of supply for production at Lansing Delta Assembly in Michigan. Stellantis also said it was suffering from a deficit of components at its minivan plant.
“Stellantis confirms that the Windsor Assembly Plant had to cut short its first and second shifts on Tuesday due to parts shortages,” a spokesperson for the company that owns the Chrysler brand told CBC News. “We continue to work closely with our carriers to get parts into the plant to mitigate further disruptions.”
It’s assumed more auto facilities will be forced into operating on reduced schedules if the blockades (where demonstrators usually leave a single lane open) are not lifted. However truckers have expressed no interested in doing so before the Canadian and U.S. governments abandon all lockdown measures and vaccine requirements. While the Freedom Convoy’s original demands were to put an end to the use of vaccine passports and forced quarantines at border crossings, truckers now want to see all mandates related to the pandemic totally dissolved.
The last few weeks have seen serious pushback from authorities, however. Truckers arriving in Ottawa to deliver their messages to Members of Parliament were initially met with slanderous reports from the media that framed them as bigots pushing a dangerous agenda, rather than blue collar workers with a desire to see life returning to normal after two years of restrictions. This was followed by unsubstantiated claims of protestors engaging in organized vandalism and violence. Then they became subject to a series of local decrees that banned honking and made it illegal for people to carry around fuel canisters.
The theory was that if the truckers couldn’t keep their rigs fueled, then the cold weather would drive them back home. Instead, supportive protestors began arriving in Ottawa carrying empty jerrycans to confuse the police. Daily streams from the protest now appear to show the police doing little more than holding chokepoints required to reach the convoy. But it’s the truckers that hold the all-important ground in front of Parliament Hill.
“The blockades in Windsor and Ottawa are endangering jobs, impeding trade, threatening the economy, and obstructing our communities. They must stop,” Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tweeted on Wednesday.
He later said he was working with Ontario’s premier Doug Ford to handle the situation (more on that later). Earlier in the week, Trudeau spoke out against the anti-mandate protests in a bid to get more MPs on his side to mixed effect.
But nothing the authorities have tried on the demonstrators seems to have worked. Law enforcement has routinely shut down highway cameras along convoy routes to downplay its size, only to find independent journalists riding alone with truckers streaming the event. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) attempted to get the blockade in Coutts, Alberta, (arguably the most important food crossing in North America) be removed by towing companies. But the towing union ultimately sided with the truckers, refusing to hall away any vehicles that were participating in civil disobedience. Counter protests have spring up in Ottawa, too. Though they’ve yet to rival the number of Freedom Convoy supporters.
We’ve even seen reports of authorities showing up to the homes of participants or shutting down cell networks to stop communications. However truckers use CB radios and their allies have been leaning on HAM and Bluetooth mesh networks to keep comms open.
But that doesn’t mean this is over. One of the biggest obstacles for truckers has been financial. Running a big rig is expensive even when you’re getting paid, so protest organizers launched a GoFundMe to guarantee the convoys had food and fuel. However political pressure encouraged GoFundMe to freeze the funds after the account had amassed roughly $10 million. Initially, the company said it would only reimburse users to asked to be and would funnel the remaining money to charities of its choosing. But this resulted in widespread criticism and accusations of theft, resulting in GoFundMe simply giving everything back to those who donated.
A second account was set up with GiveSendGo, which has set itself up as a safer alternative to crowdsourcing websites that have frozen or removed accounts in the past. Having raised nearly $5 million on its first day, the Ontario government announced that it would be suspending access to that account this week.
On Thursday, statement from Doug Ford’s office on Thursday said Attorney General Doug Downey brought the application for the order, under Section 490.8 of the Criminal Code, to prohibit anyone from distributing donations made through the website’s Freedom Convoy 2022 and Adopt-a-Trucker campaign pages.
However GiveSendGo issued a response just hours later, effectively telling the Canadian government to kiss off.
“Know this! Canada has absolutely ZERO jurisdiction over how we manage our funds here at GiveSendGo,” the company wrote on its Twitter page. “All funds for EVERY campaign on GiveSendGo flow directly to the recipients of those campaigns, not least of which is The Freedom Convoy campaign.”
Things are far from settled. There’s still a wide division between those supporting the truckers and those who do not. But the popular rhetoric against the convoy never seems to be about a desire to retain COVID mandates or even criticisms that the blockades will result in widespread shortages and increased economic strife (which they undoubtedly will).
Instead, accusations of racism and homophobia have persisted. As an example, here’s a Jalopnik article about how people are “fighting back” against the convoy by using gay porn and heavy metal — as if there aren’t homosexual truckers supporting the convoy or sexuality has anything to do with putting an end to travel restrictions, quarantine zones, vaccine requirements, or mask mandates.
Meanwhile, some Canadian officials have doubled down and even gone so far as to suggest the military should be deployed. The Ottawa Children’s Aid Society has even suggesting separating protesting parents from their offspring, citing “child welfare concerns.” Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens has likewise been hinting that Canada should do whatever is necessary to remove the idling trucks from the Ambassador Bridge.
“The individuals on site are trespassing on municipal property and, if need be, will be removed to allow for the safe and efficient movement of goods across the border,” Dilkens said during a Thursday afternoon press briefing, suggesting the protestors were inherently violent.
The owner of the bridge, Matt Moroun, also weighed in on the matter by asking Canada to do something that actually works. He suggested a few possible remedies for the blockade, including forcibly removing truckers. But he ultimately decided that giving into their demands would be the easiest solution and most likely to result in a free-flowing trade route.
“End the protest by repealing the mandate and recognizing that, while the vast majority of truck drivers are vaccinated, there are some who for many reasons are choosing not to get vaccinated but deserve to be respected and allowed to do their jobs and serve our countries with dignity,” Moroun said.
I’m not going to pretend I’m unbiased here. I have attended several protests in the U.S. decrying pandemic-related restrictions and unequivocally support what the Freedom Convoy is trying to achieve. Though I believe my position is based in facts and I have attempted to include as many relevant links in this article in support of that claim. There’s also something undeniably exciting to me about oversized motor vehicles being transformed into tools of liberty. However I’m not out here to convince you based on one article and am encouraging everyone to seek out as much news about the protests as they can. There is a wealth of independent reporters on the ground, chronicling the protests in real time (often with some great shots of vintage big rigs and tours of their cabs), and an abundance of less-favorable reporting stemming from a majority of legacy (corporate or government) media outlets.
From there, you can make up your own minds.
But you might want to be quick about it because protests have continued building momentum across Europe, Australia, New Zealand, and parts of the United States. While many of these events are truck-free, here’s presently a Freedom Convoy barreling toward Paris and another one preparing to reach Brussels in a few days. The Kiwis have likewise set up truck-based protests, with Aussies having pocketed versions of its own. An American convoy has also been planned for later this month. Though organizers have said they’ve had trouble organizing using social media, as Facebook has been removing the relevant groups and banning accounts. This has slowed things down, putting U.S. truckers slightly behind schedule.
[Image: Franklin McKay/Shutterstock; Markgo/Shutterstock; Christopher O’Donnell/Shutterstock; Michel Elzo/Shutterstock]
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