From the March-April 2022 issue of News & Letters
The white supremacist organizers who promoted the “Freedom Convoy” to Ottawa, Canada’s national capital, beginning in January, called it a movement of the nation’s truck drivers. They predicted that as many as 50,000 truckers, nearly one-third of the drivers licensed for U.S.-Canada transport, would be there.
Yet the occupation itself undercut every element of their central message: that they were Canadian, that they were truck drivers, and that they were there to end COVID mandates. Confederate and Nazi flags and TRUMP 2024 banners, together with exposure by hackers of how much of the donations through GiveSendGo came from U.S. addresses, gave the lie to how authentically Canadian the blockade was.
TRUCK DRIVERS’ DEMANDS
The mere couple hundred big rigs blocking Ottawa streets and just 10 trucks shutting down the Ambassador Bridge between Detroit and Windsor, outnumbered by the RVs and pickups of right-wing activists, made clear it wasn’t about truckers.
Organizers’ demands that Parliament end all health restrictions would affect truck drivers almost not at all, because 90% of Canadian truckers have already been vaccinated, and U.S. regulations would still block unvaccinated Canadian drivers at the border.
A movement led by truckers, instead of one disowned by union Teamsters and independent drivers, would likely have focused on diesel fuel prices that are twice those in the U.S., on the imminent threat of self-driving trucks, and on the inhuman schedules that freight deliveries impose that are contrary to human health. But this wasn’t a movement of truckers being diverted and coopted by fascists—it was a fascist movement, with a few truckers out front to brand the message.
Donald Trump and others had weaponized opposition to masks and to COVID-19 vaccines, even though there was general consensus across classes on similar mandates on schoolkids for vaccination against polio and other communicable diseases.
The Canadian opposition Conservative Party actually so embraced this slow-speed insurrection that they ousted leader Erin O’Toole in favor of interim leader Candice Bergen, who notoriously has sported a MAGA cap in Canada. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau repeatedly denounced the occupation early on, but despite organizers’ calls for Trudeau to turn over government power to them, neither he nor Ontario provincial officials acted against them.
RACISM IS UBIQUITOUS
Trudeau had proved capable of ruthlessly protecting the interests of capitalists’ production in the past, most notably by authorizing lethal force to remove a blockade in 2019 by Wet’suwet’en people on their own land in British Columbia who were obstructing construction of a gas pipeline. Yet for six days he did not move to clear a handful of trucks blocking $300 million in daily trade that moves across the Ambassador Bridge spanning the Detroit River.
Canadian cops dragged their heels, mirroring the way they have protected right-wing protesters north and south of the border. It took the firing of two police officials and declaration of the Emergencies Act before Canadian police moved to clear the area.
Echoes of anti-mandate protests have appeared as far away as New Zealand, which even included Maori participation. New Zealand’s vaccination campaign has left just 4% of the population unvaccinated, but failed to provide equal access to the vaccine for the Maori population. The Maori were not only suffering half the deaths, but were the largest group excluded from public life by stern mandates. One Maori activist confessed to being of two minds about the anti-mandate protests, sympathizing with opposing the effects on his community but outraged at the anti-Maori European chauvinists running the rallies. In the end the racist nature of the protests diminished Maori participation.
TRUMP ET AL PRAISE THE CONVOY
In the U.S. Trump praised the protests, at CPAC calling Canada a nation of “left-wing fascists” for removing protesters from the streets of Ottawa. Josh Hawley demanded that Canada be placed on the list of violators of religious liberty for arresting Rev. Arthur Pawlowski, a homophobic preacher in Alberta who had demanded that truckers continue to block the border crossing at Coutts. The threads of fundamentalist Christianity and white supremacy are intertwined in fascist movements worldwide.
The “People’s Convoy” of about 100 trucks that circled the Washington, D.C., Beltway on March 6 but did not invade the capital was a feeble shadow of its predicted size. Feeder convoys from Las Vegas and Florida had petered out because of the absence of trucks. Despite Fox News still doing the cheerleading, some speculated that there were fewer posts on social media from handles like AMERICAN PATRIOT amplifying the message because troll farms had been cut off by tech companies after Russia invaded Ukraine. But even if organizers were better at promoting this movement, it remains part and parcel of the white Christian nationalism that is a marker of today’s fascism, and not a working-class movement of truck drivers.
One thought on “Editorial: Sham trucker convoys”
The mainstream news reported 20-mile backups of trucks during the blockade of the Ambassador Bridge (Detroit MI – Windsor ON) and sometimes implied that they were part of the protest. But what they were protesting was the forced idle unpaid ti.me while they were stuck in the traffic jam and the fuel used only to stay warm, polluting the air because this was the dead of winter. The reports could have reflected this, and could have also investigated the losses in spoiled perishable cargo, adding to the outrageous 40% of US food wasted annually.