The trucker protests in Canada seem to be coming to an end as the police have moved in with force, arresting people who refused to leave and towing trucks that were blocking the streets. For reasons that are unclear to me, some protestors seem to have been taken by surprise at being thus evicted when to me the puzzlement was why it took so long. This inaction by the authorities, coupled with false assertions by protest leaders, apparently led the protestors to think that they were in the legal right and had widespread support and could dig in for the long haul. And like the January 6th protesters in the US, they now complain about how unfairly they are being treated.
When thousands of protesters against Covid restrictions arrived in Ottawa last month, it would have seemed unimaginable that they would take over parts of the Canadian capital with little resistance.
To their own disbelief, the rightwing protesters soon controlled the streets outside parliament, brazenly flouting the law in the belief nothing could or would stop them.
This weekend, however, the blockade ended in incredulity, accusations of betrayal and questions over the future of the protest movement.
Like so many people in these right-wing movements, they have the most curious ideas about the powers that governments have. We are all, whether we like it or not, enmeshed by all manner of laws that governments can invoke if they feel the need. The fact that those laws are often used selectively against marginalized groups may have misled these people to think that the laws don’t exist or do not apply to people like them.
The rapid dismantling of the blockades stood in stark contrast to weeks of bold protest as truckers flouted bylaws, blaring horns at all hours.
Even as police threatened to break up the blockades and the prime minister, Trudeau, invoked the Emergencies Act, many protesters were unfazed, arguing police didn’t have the authority to break up the protests. Key influencers in the movement, including Pat King, repeatedly reinforced this message.
“King told protesters the warnings from police weren’t official because they didn’t have signatures on them or that the city didn’t have a police chief so no one could give the order,” said Kurt Phillips of the Canadian Anti-Hate Network. “And he was telling this to people who don’t really understand how government works.”
Still, even as police swarmed the area on Friday, many protesters expressed disbelief that arrests were possible.
“You can’t do this. You can’t do this. You have no right,” pleaded one woman as a line of police pushed towards a blockade on Rideau Street. Another broke down in tears as protesters were hauled off.
As footage of arrests and scuffles spread, on the secure-messaging site Telegram groups supporting the truckers reacted with shock and skepticism. One user claimed the officers were with the United Nations, part of a common conspiracy theory which holds that Canada’s government is linked to globalist networks.
Others were told, often by protest leaders and organizers, the police supported their movement.
“They honestly believe that all of Canada supports them. And so it’s shocking to them to learn they aren’t seen as heroes,” said Carmen Celestini, a postdoctoral fellow with the Disinformation Project at Simon Fraser University, adding that many believed police officers were on their side.
“And now they’ve realized that’s not true.”
And then there were the grandiose claims by those who seemed to view themselves like Spartacus leading a revolt of the slaves, except that unlike the real Spartacus, these supposed leaders quietly left when things got too hot, leaving their followers in the lurch.
But in the waning days of the blockade, amid reports some leaders had their bank accounts frozen, defiance gave way to uncertainty.
Csaba Vizi, a trucker from Windsor, went viral on social media after he pledged to come home “glorious like Caesar, or in a body bag”. The night before the police operation, however, Vizi and other drivers left the city. Many did so after trucking companies, fearing ruin, ordered them home.
Police arrested nearly all protest leaders who called on demonstrators to “hold the line”. But the perceived ease with which some handed themselves over sparked a sense of betrayal. One user on a Telegram group accused Tamara Lich, the lead fundraiser, of having ties to the financier George Soros.
“A lot of patriotic Canadian[s] were duped into believing this [convoy] was real,” the user wrote.
Benjamin Dichter, a protest leader, called on supporters to stand their ground but left Ottawa before he could be arrested. His decision prompted one Telegram user to call him a “globalist operative subverting the freedom convoy”.
“Influential figures were really pushing disinformation to keep the protesters there,” said Celestini.
What is it with this belief among right-wingers that we are on the verge of a United Nations-led one world government takeover? t is about as far-fetched a theory as one can imagine and yet it seems to exert a great deal of influence among the nutters in the US and, apparently, in Canada too.
This protest illustrates the tight line that authorities have to walk when dealing with protests. Even if the protestors represent a very small fraction of the public (as seems to be the case in Canada), if they are sufficiently large in numbers, authorities face a quandary. You want to avoid suppressing expressions of dissent by force. On the other hand, letting them break laws feeds them the illusion that it is they who represent public opinion and gives their movement greater strength. There is also always the racial dimension. White protestors seem to be given much more leeway than protestors of color.
The Canadian protestors were supported financially and rhetorically by right-wing moneyed interests and politicians in the US who seem to be urging truckers in the US to stage a similar protest here and there are rumblings that it might take place, beginning around March 4th. I think the US authorities have likely noted what happened in Canada and seem to have decided that it is easier to prevent the trucks from arriving in large numbers than getting rid of them later.
Matt G says
The Bundy clowns took over the wildlife preserve center, uploaded videos of themselves committing crimes, and got acquitted. White conservative Christians can get away with pretty much anything is the message being sent.
M. Currie says
For the right wing plague rats to deny police authority is a nice irony.
Marcus Ranum says
Right wing protesters always have a problem: they worship the police and authority and they are overwhelmed with cognitive dissonance when their heroes start beating the shit out of them.
Ottawa’s mayor wants to confiscate and sell the impounded vehicle to offset the money wasted over the past few weeks.
Canada doesn’t have legalized theft like the US (so-called “asset forfeiture”), but this is one case where I hope their property gets seized and sold.
Some of the protesters were even more out of touch with reality than right-wing Trumpists in the US.
One protesters was interviewed on TV and said he was there because of the rigged election. He either doesn’t know what country he is in, or doesn’t know our elections are not overseen by the ruling party like in the US, and are therefore highly unlikely to be rigged or biased.
Elections here are carried out by an independent agency reporting to the entire legislature, and all vote counts are scrutinized by members of the 3 major parties (Scrutineer -- “a scrutineer is appointed to represent their candidate at a poll. A scrutineer’s role is to observe the electoral process, from before the poll opens until the poll closes, including the counting of ballots after polls close and the tallying of unofficial results.”)
The Bundys got off because of prosecutorial stupidity. They were charged with conspiracy instead of the actual crimes they committed. Government couldnt prove that anyone actively conspired and the bundys went mostly free.
Arguably they’ve not been misled completely. The laws still apply massively disproportionately against marginalised groups. What’s funny is watching their disbelief and indignation when the law even starts applying to them.
What I don’t entirely understand is why there isn’t a grassroots uprising by these people against their treacherous so-called leaders. We’re told that this crowd of bozos are armed, dangerous, organised, nasty people. And yet: when they are demonstrably lied to, repeatedly, made to look like fools, entrapped into being arrested and having their lives ruined by people who slope off quietly and pretend they had nothing to do with it… not a single one of those cowardly provocateurs is hunted down and shot. Not one. It makes me doubt the resolve of these so-called patriots, that they allow themselves to be gulled so comprehensively and their revenge is harsh words on Twitter or similar. It’s almost as though they’re a load of useless bloody loonies.
Here’s another thing I don’t understand: if we WERE on the verge of a United-Nations-led one world government takeover… the world that would result would almost certainly look like a white supremacist’s wet dream. Because who would be in charge? Take a look at the current UN Security Council:
Russia -- white. USA -- white (I don’t think it’s controversial to say they’re almost exclusively the ones in charge. It’s morally wrong, but it’s true). The UK -- white. France -- white. China -- not Black. And the rest, currently:
Norway and Ireland are so white they’re almost see-through. Albania is pretty white by global standards. Brazil and Mexico are a bit Hispanic unfortunately (Mr. Cholmondley-Warner-style SARCASM in case it’s not obvious), but only Gabon, Ghana and Kenya are properly Black and it’s not like they’d have any actual influence. The UAE are so rich they don’t count. But overall a world with the UN in charge would, to all intents and purposes, be a world with the minority of white people in charge. So if you’re a nasty, racist, right-wing loon, what’s not to like? Why aren’t they working diligently to bring this fantasy about as soon as possible? Could it be because they haven’t really sat down and thought about it even for a second?
Trickster Goddess says
I heard so many protesters claim that it would be illegal to arrest them since they weren’t being violent, as if that was the only definition of a crime.
Then there was the protester at a bail hearing who claimed he was just exercising his First Amendment rights. (The first amendment of the Canadian constitution recognizes Manitoba as a province.)
The delusion that they have broad is quite strong. I unfortunately have several anti-vaxxers in my family who were enthusiastic supporters of the protest. My brother posted a picture of a couple of protesters who were knocked over by a police horse (they promptly got back up and continued protesting) and intoned “And just like that an anti-mandate movement becomes a pro-democracy movement.” as if this was some Tienanmen Square moment wheren popular dissent was being brutally crushed.
I’ve been trying not to engage them in their conspiracy theories for my own sanity, but I felt I had to respond to that. I replied:
Marja Erwin says
According to some reports, the shooter in Portland accused those he shot of being “violent terrorists.” Who knows how these people understand “violence.”
WMDKitty -- Survivor says
“What is it with this belief among right-wingers that we are on the verge of a United Nations-led one world government takeover?”
I don’t know, but it’s been a thing in Christian circles since the 1980’s.
I am hesitant to be too critical of these truckers, or anyone else engaged in massive protests. It is all too possible that in 2024, if multiple state legislators decide to throw out their actual voters’ votes and submit their own hand-picked electors, that you and I will be out there in the streets trying to shut down our nearest capitol in a last-ditch effort to save democracy.
Rob Grigjanis says
brucegee1962 @11: One hopes that your demos won’t be based on disinformation. And that you won’t callously make the lives of local residents unbearable. And that you won’t bring your kids to the front lines.
I do feel some sympathy for some of the protesters. Those that really believe the bullshit they’ve been fed.
Determined to out-stupid the Canadian truckers, here in the USA, we have an upcoming trucker convoy to look forward to. They plan to circle the beltway around Washington DC, which is just adorable because they’re under the impression that the DC Beltway actually moves.
According to the national news clip I saw, they’re protesting wearing masks, which is a real head-scratcher. Don’t these people spend all day driving around alone in their trucks? No masks needed for that. And when they stop for gas, they don’t have to wear masks either.
Speaking of gas, they’re protesting the cost of gas. The US government doesn’t regulate the cost of gas--that’s the Free Market, aka Capitalism.
John Morales says
K, huh. Protesting the price of fuel by driving around. Sounds pricey.
Marcus Ranum says
They plan to circle the beltway around Washington DC, which is just adorable because they’re under the impression that the DC Beltway actually moves.
I used to do that every day. I have memories of the traffic. I’m afraid for the “truckers” -- they may get ripped apart by angry DC commuters. I mean, DC commuters are always angry; that’s the point.
Do American elections not have scrutineers? I’ve always found it baffling that political entities are allowed to run elections (nevermind determine district shape/size) in America, since it is so easy to put one’s finger on the scale (and I know this is something that has been attempted, successfully or otherwise, by both major American parties in the modern era, though we all know that one of them, being perpetually in the actual minority on the issues, has far more incentive to do so), but surely the counting process is overseen by legions of people representing their candidate/party. Actually, this brings up a question. Were GOP scrutineers in the elections of 2020 (and run-offs of 2021) just…pretending that the supposed fraud in their particular district happened at other polls with less…vigilant counting supervision (because they could personally verify the counts they oversaw)…or were they just being dickheads and claiming that 90+% of the Democratic votes they were clearly witnessing shouldn’t count for ridiculous reasons. From the Trump talking points, I expect it was mostly the latter…after all, those people didn’t verify the actual legal ability TO VOTE of those who cast the Democratic votes. That was someone else’s job (amusingly, in a state like Georgia, where the US senate run-off elections were both extremely close, the bureaucrats who registered voters were likely not just GOP voters themselves, but people who were technically employees of the GOP, people who stay employed at their discretion).
Here in Canada, scrutineers only have the power to report possible counting incompetence or fraud to their parties, whose job it is to take the complaint to Elections Canada (or the provincial or municipal elections organization) -- they cannot overrule the decisions of the deputy returning officers (DRO), who have sole discretion on whether a vote counts (at least on the main count -- if a recount is later ordered, someone higher than a mere DRO will be conducting it). Having been a poll clerk myself, I have been annoyed on a couple occasions (most recently in the 2019 federal election) when the DRO with whom I was working with declined to count a vote which CLEARLY specified the wish of the voter, but which was deemed spoiled because the person circled one candidate’s name AND CROSSED OUT ALL OF THE OTHER NAMES instead of placing an X next to one candidate’s name like they were supposed to (people…READ THE INSTRUCTIONS!). And a scrutineer had actual reason to complain (since the DRO is supposed to consider intent…we even get examples of what should be interpreted as a legal vote, and what shouldn’t be, and things other than the proper X in the white circle can be counted as legal votes if the voter’s wishes are clear)…and they might have done so, if it hadn’t come to pass that another moron voting for the OTHER major candidate in my riding did the same exact thing, cancelling things out. Nonetheless, the job of a scrutineer is pretty important. Poll workers would almost certainly remain honest in their absence, but scrutineers add an additional layer of trust to the system, giving parties and the public greater faith in the election results.
It would be pretty hard to steal a Canadian election. We don’t have mandatory registration before election day -- you can bring either a driver’s licence, or two pieces of other ID (there’s a long list of acceptable identification, but the gist of it is that one piece proves who you are, and one proves that you live in that district -- and even an electricity or water bill will suffice for the latter) to your polling place and vote mere minutes later (moreover, if you can’t prove that you live in the district, someone who is your neighbour can vouch for your residence there, signing a legal document and allowing you the ability to vote at that poll). Our districts are determined by independent bodies, and polling stations are distributed fairly, not concentrated in areas with a high concentration of one kind of people, but sparse in areas with another. You can vote by mail, plus there is usually a minimum of 3 or 4 days of advance voting (a provincial election I worked had NINE days of advanced voting), which means that those who can’t be present on election day can still vote. Elections Canada (and the other provincial and municipal organizations) set up polling stations in assisted living residences, nursing homes and prisons, allowing those who are unable to get to a polling station for reasons of disability or incarceration, the ability to cast their ballot. And there are strict rules about campaigning, and especially campaigning on election day…any posters, stickers, leaflets, etc. cannot be within a certain distance of a polling station. Poll workers are even prohibited from wearing the party COLOURS of any of the major political parties…we mostly go with black or white (since any shade of red, blue, orange and green are banned). And finally, the cost of being caught in voter fraud is so severe here (if it goes to trial, you could be looking at up to a $50,000 fine or 5 years in jail) that the benefit of adding a few illicit votes to a district in which tens of thousands of people will vote is just not worth the risk.
So yeah…long story short, Trudeau didn’t…and COULDN’T steal an election. The institutions which safeguard our elections exist for a reason, and removing them would be difficult, and I don’t think the Canadian people would accept it. And that gets to the heart of the problem: trust. We have a high degree of social and institutional trust in Canada. American politicians and companies deliberately destroyed that trust to make money and exploit people. Someone’s going to need to pay for that…but more importantly, someone needs to find a way to rebuild that trust. Because without trust, societies devolve into chaos.
@John Morales: it’s astounding how often that demographic votes and acts against their own self interest.
@VolcanoMan #16 You are asking a Canadian if American elections have scrutineers??
Actually, I looked it up on Wikipedia, and they do, much the same as in Canada it seems. So I guess your last paragraph hits the point, it’s about trust, or lack of it in the US. Or that the people complaining about fixed elections don’t know how their system works? Or they think the problem is with voter registration, e.g., dead people voting like in Chicago in the 60’s under Mayor Daley. Or maybe they believe it’s a problem just because one man said it is (in spite of the facts)?
So I guess what it comes down to in the US is that there are problems with elections because they are controlled by the states, by the party in power, who seem to be able to gerrymander voting districts to suit their party, and/or make it difficult for part of the population to vote by making voter registration difficult, or by making voting itself difficult (few polling places in certain areas, for example).
I used to have arguments with an American coworker (now permanently retired in Canada) about Canadian vs US government systems. I eventually settled it by admitting the the American system was the best system in theory, but unfortunately it didn’t work very well in practice. The Canadian system has much less direct democracy, so in theory is not as good a democratic system, but in practice it works quite well. He had no comeback to that.
Raging Bee says
“What is it with this belief among right-wingers that we are on the verge of a United Nations-led one world government takeover?”
That’s just a variation of their End-Times delusion — based on Ezekiel and Revelation mostly, via “The Late Great Planet Earth” and the “Left Behind” books — that “The Antichrist” will be a liberal/socialist who wants to unite and control everyone in order to do good without God…and of course it will all end in Armageddon, because you can’t do good without God, and everyone who wants to do so is Of The Devil.
Minor historical quibble…
“…unlike the real Spartacus, these supposed leaders quietly left when things got too hot…”
…no one knows what happened to Spartacus and while it’s generally presumed he was killed in the battle that put his rebellion down, he may have “quietly left when things got too hot” as some rumoured.
Tabby Lavalamp says
It’s always funny when the right accuses liberals and leftists of being in bubbles yet are constantly shocked when conservatives lose elections or don’t have the public support they think they have. That’s not to say we don’t live in bubbles ourselves (look at the shock when the Hamberdler won the presidency), but we don’t keep loudly proclaiming that we’re the silent majority.