Semi-truck drivers are protesting in Canada over government COVID-19 mandates. The Freedom Convoy traveled to Ottawa, the capital city and they are refusing to leave until the mandates are stopped.
The convoy is very well organized. A new rule went into effect that all truck drivers entering Canada are required to be fully vaccinated and that seems to be what put them over the top. For reference, the United States has the same rule now. Over 90% of truckers are fully vaccinated but that isn’t the point with the protesters. They say the government is overreaching in its mandates, even during a time when store shelves are empty because of supply chain problems. To take trucks off the road over mandates doesn’t make sense, especially given the solitary nature of their occupation.
The protest has gained support from around the world. Some Canadians are less than thrilled, though, and tension between them and the truckers is escalating. GoFundMe shut down its fundraising page after almost $10M was raised by supporters. The Governor of Florida and the attorney general in Texas both accused GoFundMe of committing fraud by confiscating the money and only doling out refunds to those who requested it by a certain date. GoFundMe soon backtracked and will now refund all the donations. On Friday, the same day that GoFundMe was shutting down donations, a driver of a Jeep drove into a crowd of protesters, injuring four before he fled the scene. Police caught him and arrested him. He has been criminally charged.
Canadians are staging counter-protests, frustrated with the disruption of the convoy as it parks in downtown Ottawa. Hundreds of health care workers and their supporters marched to hospital row, just south of the legislature. They held placards with messages: “free-dumb” and “N95 masks for all.” Ottawa Police Chief Peter Sloly labeled the protest an occupation on Friday. Canadian Transport Minister, Omar Alghabra, said the demands of the truckers are “quite unreasonable.” “Their demand is to overthrow an elected government.”
‘I understand people are frustrated and we want to hear all points of view and I ask that they all engage with their officials,’ Alghabra said. ‘But occupying downtown, Ottawa downtown, or other cities is not going to advance their cause and its going to cause all kinds of destructions that are unnecessary and unaccepted.
Alghabra says removing mandates, as Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Ireland, and Switzerland have done, is “quite unreasonable.”
— Roberto Wakerell-Cruz ✝️ (@Robertopedia) February 4, 2022
A class action lawsuit was filed on Friday as well. While the police chief was calling them occupiers and the transportation secretary was accusing them of wanting to overthrow an elected government, attorney Paul Champ posted a video via Twitter in which he gives a deadline of this morning for the truckers to leave downtown Ottawa. If they do so, and also give their name and license plate numbers to the lawyer, they will be released from the lawsuit. “Depart in peace and ye shall be released.” Sounds like a data base in the making.
Dear Freedom Convoy Truckers, my client Ms Li is making an offer to settle the proposed class action against those who have been blaring their air horns in downtown Ottawa.
Depart in peace, and ye shall be released. See video…more details to come with the release. pic.twitter.com/n5rgrxz1TQ
— Paul Champ (@PaulChampLaw) February 5, 2022
Zexi Li filed a $9.8million lawsuit in Ontario Superior Court on Friday, seeking damages for ’emotional and mental distress’, citing ongoing headaches, sleeping difficulties, difficulty concentrating and interference with quiet enjoyment of her home.
‘The Class Members are living in daily torment caused by the incessant blasting of truck horns,’ reads the statement of claim.
The lawsuit, filed by lawyer Paul Champ, categorizes two types of damages: the first, worth $4.8 million, for ‘private nuisance’, while the second is for ‘punitive damages,’ worth $5 million.
The suit accuses convoy organizers Chris Barber, Benjamin Dichter, Tamara Lich, Patrick King and other unknown semi-trucker drivers, thought to be up to 60, who have honked their horns in protest on a daily basis.
Ms. Li can’t sleep and the honking makes her flinch. She claims truckers are heckling her for wearing a face mask.
‘When the Plaintiff ventures outside, she is almost immediately subjected to heckling by members of the Freedom Convoy, yelling at her to remove the mask she wears to protect herself and others from contracting COVID-19,’ the lawsuit reads.
‘When she ignores the heckles, members of the Convoy respond by honking their horns which invariably causes the Plaintiff to flinch. When the Plaintiff flinches, the hecklers cheer loudly.’
It also mentions Ottawa police’s lack of action, who has previously told Li that it can’t do much about the constant noise, which has contributed to her anxiety, indicating that she has contacted the department at least 14 times.
The lawsuit, classified as class action, remains open to any residents in Ottawa who live within an area of the city overwhelmed by the protest.
On Sunday, the protest was nine days in. The mayor of Ottawa declared a state of emergency. Ottawa police said they would arrest anyone bringing supplies, such as gas, to the protesters.
On Sunday evening, police stepped up their attempt to choke off the protest’s supplies by removing fuel tankers from a support centre set up by demonstrators in a baseball-stadium parking lot in Ottawa’s east end. Two people in that area were arrested for mischief, adding to the more than 60 criminal cases opened since protests began, most of which involve allegations of mischief, theft, property damage or hate crimes, the department said in a press release Sunday evening.
Mayor Jim Watson said the emergency declaration would allow greater flexibility for the city and businesses to provide essential services for residents and more easily purchase equipment required by front-line workers and first responders.
“Declaring a state of emergency reflects the serious danger and threat to the safety and security of residents posed by the ongoing demonstrations and highlights the need for support from other jurisdictions and levels of government,” he said in a statement.
Protests are happening in other cities, too. In Toronto, Vancouver, Edmonton, Quebec City, and Winnipeg, there were protests and some counter protests during the weekend. The leaders of the convoy continue to preach non-violence on social media. There doesn’t seem to be a will to end the protest among those participating. A core organizer says they don’t want a “Jan. 6-style insurrection”, which is interesting wording.
Chris Barber, one of the protest’s core organizers, preached non-violence on social media Sunday afternoon as he raised concerns about reports that a trailer full of rubble was sitting in downtown Ottawa. He asked supporters who come across it to hide the rocks with a tarp, intimating that “higher powers at play right now” may want these potential projectiles used to turn the occupation violent.
“Don’t play into the hands of this stuff, guys, this is exactly what they want,” he said Sunday on the TikTok video platform. “The only way out of this with the government right now is for us to turn it into a Jan. 6-style insurrection – we’ve made them look so stupid right now, so stupid – so please don’t play into that.
“We have gotten so far, we don’t want it tainted by anything silly right now.”
Truckers, farmers and cowboys have been blocking the US – Canada border for nine days. An epochal protest for freedom. They wrote history. pic.twitter.com/WMazQHb9Bl
— RadioGenova (@RadioGenova) February 6, 2022
Canada, 300 cawboys arrived in Coutts to support the protest of truckers and farmers. Awesome. pic.twitter.com/I9CY0onKx4
— RadioGenova (@RadioGenova) February 5, 2022
It certainly doesn’t look like the truckers will meet the deadline this morning to disband and leave Ottawa. Stay tuned.
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