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Freedom Convoy 2022: Everything You Need To Know

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Freedom Convoy 2022
Freedom Convoy 2022

Protesters — some of them in big-rig trucks — have been jamming streets in the downtown core of the Canadian capital, Ottawa, in recent weeks to challenge coronavirus-related restrictions.

The demonstrators have called their movement the “Freedom Convoy” and, for the second weekend in a row, have blared horns, shot off fireworks, driven on sidewalks and engaged in what Ottawa police have described as “extremely disruptive and unlawful behavior.” On Tuesday, the convoy disrupted a second U.S.-Canada land crossing.

The Ottawa Police Service said that it is working to end the disruption and that officers have issued hundreds of tickets, made several arrests, and seized fuel and vehicles.

The police force also opened up criminal investigations into what it said was “threatening” and “illegal behavior.” The mayor of Ottawa declared a state of emergency on Sunday.

Why are people protesting in Canada?

The demonstrations began in late January after the United States and Canada imposed a new rule requiring cross-border truck drivers to be fully vaccinated to enter their respective countries.

Since then, the protests have grown into a broader condemnation of pandemic-related measures and the government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who was recently reelected.

One of the main organizers, Canada Unity, said that it planned to submit a “memorandum of understanding” to the Senate and governor-general, Queen Elizabeth II’s representative in Canada, to compel them to drop the public health measures or dissolve the government, which is beyond their constitutional powers.

The group said Tuesday that it realized the document “does not reflect the spirit and intent of the convoy.” It said in a notice posted to its website that it was “immediately withdrawing” the document to avoid “any unintended interpretations.”

“Canada Unity does not support or encourage any acts which tarnish democratic values held by Canadians,” the statement said.

Protesters in semi-trucks and other vehicles began descending on Ottawa on Jan. 28. They include those who oppose vaccines, vaccine mandates and other coronavirus restrictions; anti-government activists; conspiracy theorists; and far-right extremists.

Some pockets of the crowd have been friendly and protesting lawfully, but police say others have intimidated and harassed locals, honking their horns at all hours. Several businesses have closed because of security concerns.

Some demonstrators also defaced monuments such as the National War Memorial. Others danced on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, some carried Confederate flags, and at least one person was spotted on television holding an upside-down Canadian flag with a swastika on it.

Trudeau last week condemned protesters who displayed “symbols of hate and division.” He said he “won’t give in to those who fly racist flags” or “engage in vandalism or dishonor the memory of our veterans.”

Demonstrators also set up a blockade to disrupt the flow of goods through two crossings along the U.S.-Canada border Tuesday — the Coutts border crossing linking Alberta to Montana, and the Ambassador Bridge linking Ontario to Detroit.

The Canadian Trucking Alliance, an industry group, has distanced itself from the protests, saying the vast majority of its truck drivers are vaccinated. It said in a statement that “a great number of these protestors have no connection to the trucking industry and have a separate agenda beyond a disagreement over cross border vaccine requirements.”

Who is supporting the Freedom Convoy?

As the convoy of vehicles approached Ottawa, several lawmakers belonging to the Conservative Party and People’s Party of Canada cheered it on. Some of them argued that the vaccination rule for cross-border truckers would lead to food shortages and rising food costs. But other lawmakers who initially backed the protests have since issued statements condemning the behavior of some members.

Sloly, the police chief, said last week that a “significant element” from the United States was involved in the participation, funding and organization of the convoy — but he has not offered any specifics. He said authorities were working with the FBI to investigate online threats against public officials.

Former president Donald Trump endorsed the convoy Feb. 4, saying in a statement that it was “peacefully protesting the harsh policies of far-left lunatic Justin Trudeau who has destroyed Canada with insane Covid mandates.”

Elon Musk, a known opponent of vaccine mandates, has also expressed his support.

Last month, the convoy’s organizers launched a GoFundMe page that raised more than $8 million. The company, however, announced Friday that it had removed the fundraiser for violating its terms of service.

GoFundMe said that it released an initial $1 million in donations to the convoy after it provided a distribution plan and confirmed that the funds would be used only for those participating in a peaceful protest. The decision to remove the fundraiser drew ire from conservatives in Canada and the United States, including some Republican attorneys general who have pledged to investigate the platform, along with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.

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