Earlier this week, I examined the evolving situation known as the Trucker Convoy. Throughout that article, I pointed to the continued presence of far-right activists in the organization of the convoy as a threat. Since then, things have escalated, and the ground situation has changed.
With a new court order requiring the convoy to disperse, some protestors have decided to go home, but some have remained. They blocked roads along the United States border and several points, exacerbating supply shortages. In Ontario, the premier, Doug Ford, has instituted a state of emergency and has promised a maximum of $100,000 and a year in prison if the protesters don’t comply with orders to disperse. And with the occupation of Ottawa continuing, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has invoked the Emergency Act to deal with the violence and public disturbances.
What is the Trucker Convoy?
The Trucker convoy, aka the Freedom Convoy, is a blockade and protest movement of supposed truckers that began in late January of this year. Initially motivated by a rule that required truckers entering the country to be vaccinated or test negative, the convoy gradually devolved into a much more complicated and violent event that prompted international attention. Though based on a general opposition to the mandates, organizers appear unaware that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has mandated similar measures and that any trucks would be subject to those same restrictions should they cross the U.S. border.
While much of the discussion around the convoy has been focused on the large vehicles and the people who drive them, many of the organizers are not truckers at all. Nor were they affiliated with the industry at large. Activists such as Tamara Lich and B.J. Dichter created one of the largest GoFundMe’s for the convoy are heavily associated with the Canadian far-right. Dichter is infamous for warning Canadians to oppose the dangers of “political Islamists” and has referred to the Liberal Party as being “infested with Islamists.” Dichter’s dehumanizing language does not end there. He has argued that the media and so-called establishment has lied to the people about the threat of Muslims in Canada, saying, “Despite what our corporate media and political leaders want to admit, Islamist entryism and the adaptation of political Islam is rotting away at our society like syphilis….”
Dichter is not alone in his racist inclinations. The Canadian Anti-Hate Network has repeatedly warned about the rising far-right element that exists within the heart of the Trucker Convoy. Reporters have routinely warned about the Diaglon Network, a fascist conspiracy network of reactionaries that have endorsed violence and Holocaust denial. Supporters of this movement imagine a state called Diaglon, which would theoretically stretch from Alaska to the Southeast portion of North America. Members of this movement have repeatedly used threats against counterprotests, with one streamer and supporter of the movement telling counter-protesters, “your followers would be wise to stay home and save lives that day.”
Violence at the rally has not solely been restricted to the realm of theoretical considerations. In one instance, unidentified arsonists attempted to set fire to an apartment building in the red zone of the protests, seemingly in retaliation for the residents’ opposition. However, that is far from certain. Other incidents included the arrest of 11 people who had begun stockpiling weapons, body armor, and a “large quantity of ammunition” per police and press reporting.
After several weeks of consistent honking, violence, and no solution in sight, some locals took matters into their own hands and fought back. One Ottawa resident, Zexi Li, filed a nearly $10 million lawsuit against the protesters for emotional damages due to the consistent honking of their horns. Others began to confront copycat truckers, with a collection of cyclists blocking and stopping a convoy of trucks in the hopes of preventing further disruptions. However, they were eventually forced to disperse by the police. Even with the residential backlash, Canadians aren’t the only ones interested in the fight in the north.
Here Come the Americans
Though the first weeks of protests were largely restricted to Canada, Americans have also influenced the protests. Former Trump advisor and right-wing activist Paul Alexander was seen at the protest. Canadian officials have also had to warn against outside Republican influence on the protests, thanks in part to the comments of Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton. After GoFundMe shut down the convoy’s donation page, the Texas attorney general opened an investigation into the business, alleging political motives, though he failed to mention the criminal activity by the convoy or how that motivated the page’s deletion.
Others, however, have taken a different and more dangerous approach. Organizers such as Leigh Dundas, a lawyer for the Church of Scientology and a supporter of the January 6th attack, have also begun organizing around the idea of replicating the convoy in the United States. According to Talking Points Memo, Dundas was in contact with the convoy organizers in Canada, although which organizers remains unclear. Through her non-profit, Freedom Fighter Nation, Dundas and her allies hope to organize a convoy and several others to reach Washington. The convoy is expected to take place on March 4th. It is also worth noting that Dundas has made claims that Republicans and Trump supporters would be well within their rights to hang or shoot any American they believe is acting in a turncoat fashion in supporting the supposed fraud that took place in the 2020 election.
Other right-wing figures have also weighed in, with Kentucky Senator Rand Paul encouraging Canadians to “clog things up.” Fox host Sean Hannity has gone further, arguing that the emergency act instituted by Justin Trudeau could justify protesters using force against the police.
The influence of Americans on the protests can’t be overstated. Nearly half of the donations sent to the convoy came from the United States, after all. And while the protests started as largely a Canadian phenomenon and will stay under the control of those Canadians who organized it, the event has taken on an international presence. Convoys have sprung up in France, and some have already begun in America. In cities such as Buffalo, hundreds gathered in reaction to the convoy with some vehicles intended to create similar goals to the protests in Canada. One of the main organizing groups, the Convoy to Save America, has praised the Canadian convoy, referring to it as a “… stand for the freedom to choose….” Another organization has planned a similar rally in Los Angeles with them arriving in D.C.
Ultimately, the influence of the protests is difficult to ascertain. The protests in Canada are far from finished, and there are already more consequences being thrown onto the protestors if they don’t disperse, and there is no guarantee that the protests will remain a symbol of the right’s resistance, although it would be a naïve mistake to assume they would let such a political symbol fade away. Likely, the convoys will become a useful experiment for the right in Canada and the United States to consult to organize their resources against policies that they deem intrusive. No matter the harm to the public, they will use this chaotic display to their ends. It should not surprise anyone if we began to hear our own cacophony of horns on the horizon.