A month later, Freedom Convoy nears end
Beginning on Jan. 22, a convoy of Canadian vehicles, dubbed the “Freedom Convoy” by its organizers, started all across Canada heading for the capital city of Ottawa. After nearly a month of protests, arrests are starting to be made and vehicles that blocking the streets of Ottawa towed. Arrests beginning on Feb. 17 included three of the movement's leaders, according to a statement released by Freedom Convoy 2022, one of the main organizations leading this protest.
The demonstration was originally an effort to end the cross-border vaccine mandates in Canada. This followed the Canadian government’s announcement that unvaccinated Canadian truckers crossing the border between the U.S. and Canada had to quarantine upon their return. Not long after, the U.S. required truck drivers to show proof of vaccination upon entry starting Jan. 22. According to the Canadian Trucking Association, these requirements could affect between 28,000 and 38,000 truck drivers across the two nations.
Once arriving in Ottawa, protesters parked their vehicles on the streets, many adorned with Canadian flags. At times, the city was filled with the sounds of protesters honking their horns in the streets.
On Feb. 16, the Ottawa City Council held a meeting to discuss how to disperse the protestos' blockade of vehicles. Council member Catherine McKenny joined the meeting from the streets, asking what the plan was for residents of Ottawa who lived in areas with protesters. In the video, the street is filled with parked cars blocking street access.
Freedom Convoy had also set up speakers for demonstrators in Ottawa. Events were canceled on the evening of Feb. 19 due to police checkpoints, though a video post on Freedom Convoy’s Twitter showed a large gathering of protesters still gathered around 6:30 p.m.
Throughout the protest, the Ottawa Police Department has been releasing updates on arrests, vehicle towings, and messages to protesters. Media outlets have been taking to Twitter to post updates, including Fox News correspondent Sara Carter, who in a since-deleted tweet stated that a woman had been trampled by a Canadian horse patrol and later died at a hospital. The Ottawa Police refuted the claim, saying that no one had been seriously injured or died due to police actions. Carter later issued an apology that her sources on the ground were mistaken and someone with a heart condition was taken to a hospital.
A tweet by the Ottawa Police department on Feb. 20 reported 191 arrests and 57 towed vehicles. Of those arrested, 103 were charged, mostly with mischief and obstruction.
The convoy also inspired some to block border crossing between the U.S. and Canada. The border crossing between Alberta and Montana was blocked by peaceful protesters against Canadian COVID policies for more than two weeks. Traffic began moving again on Feb. 15.
Arrests were made at the crossing, including four men charged with plotting to murder Royal Canadian Mounted Police officers. On Feb. 7, movement across the border between Ontario and Michigan came to a halt following protests. Movement across Ambassador Bridge did not resume until Feb. 13 following 42 arrests and 37 vehicle seizures.
The Freedom Convoy has inspired others to hold similar protests to COVID-19 vaccination mandates. According to the website for “The People’s Convoy,” there will be a convoy leaving from Adelanto Stadium in Southern California. The organization’s website includes the planned route and a link to donate to those involved. They claim that $130,000 has been donated towards their efforts as of Feb. 19.
According to a press release from the organization, for 11 days they will travel to Washington, D.C., and will disperse once they arrive on March 5, in an agreement with local D.C. authorities. The People’s Convoy claims to be a “non-partisan effort supported by a cross-cultural and multi-faith consortium.” They state that Robert Kennedy Jr.’s Children’s Health Defense TV will be following them with live updates. The Children’s Health Defense has been known to spread anti-vaccination rhetoric and has made calls to end COVID-19-related mandates. Despite The People’s Convoy claiming to be a non-partisan effort, many of the organizations that back them, such as The Unity Project and The America Project, support conservative talking points.
The American Trucker Freedom Fund shares a similar goal to The People’s Convoy, but seemingly takes a more partisan stance. This organization is funded by the Great American Patriot Project, who “support Vetted Patriot Candidates to run for State and Federal Office under the Republican ticket.” The American Trucker Freedom Fund lists several routes on their website, with start dates ranging from March 1 to March 6. Most of their routes end at Washington, D.C.