Protests regarding pandemic restrictions have engulfed the Canadian capital for roughly two weeks. Beginning last month, truck drivers congregated in protest of a new mandate that truck drivers be vaccinated or face additional COVID testing and quarantine periods.
The self-proclaimed “Freedom Convoy” now occupies Ottawa, with over 500 truck drivers and 18,000 supporters. While primarily a movement in opposition to vaccination mandates, the protests now reflect a larger frustration with Canadian COVID restrictions.
Now referred to as the “red zone,” the Ottawan city center has been blocked by large 18-wheelers that have positioned themselves across the main streets. Police and local officials have been unable to move or redirect the trucks.
On Sunday February 6th, the mayor of Ottawa, Jim Watson, declared a state of emergency, stating that the Freedom Convoy is disrupting the city with constant horn blaring, sirens, and fireworks. Ottawa’s Police Department has described the situation as a nation-wide insurrection and a siege of the nation’s capital.
Apart from disturbances in the city’s capital, these demonstrations rejecting vaccine requirements have also blocked a key trade route between the United States and Canada. The Ambassador Bridge, which connects Ontario to Detroit, is responsible for 25% of all US-Canadian trade.
On any given day, roughly $350 million in goods, such as auto parts and agricultural products, cross the Ambassador Bridge. Many officials worry that the blockade will have serious consequences on the supply chain.
In addition to the upheaval of border crossings between the US and Canada, the protests have generated global support amongst the greater trucking community. Facebook groups and online organizations have capitalized on resentment in cities around the world and have inspired similar protests.
Specifically, online groups with tens of thousands of members united under the “European Freedom Convoy” have sparked concerns in France. French officials have banned a ‘freedom convoy’ from entering Paris, citing “risks of disturbing public order.”
These chat groups have called for drivers to travel to Paris on February 11th and to continue to Brussels on February 14th for a so-called “European convergence.” Certain motorists departed southern France on February 9th, to begin the journey to Paris.
In New Zealand, protestors have encamped in the nation’s capital for a third night. Beginning earlier this week, vehicles clogged the streets of Wellington, blaring horns and taking to the streets to oppose COVID measures. Throughout the pandemic, New Zealand has imposed some of the strictest measures. Police have arrested over 120 people at a protest outside Parliament.
Similarly, in a bulletin obtained by CBS News, the Department of Homeland Security is warning of American truckers’ plans. DHS has warned that truckers may be planning to concoct a road block from California to Washington, D.C..
Law enforcement agencies worry that the convoy could then move east in time for the State of the Union address on March 1st. The bulletin warns this copycat protest has the potential to ‘disrupt transportation, federal government, and law enforcement operations through gridlock and potential counter-protests.”
Despite intentions to reject vaccine mandates, protestors have, for the most part, remained peaceful. Most criticism focuses on the disruption of everyday life for residents of capital cities.