Filed under: Canadian Tire Fire, Featured
Our report this week will focus mainly on the ongoing anti-mandate, far-Right convoys and responses across so-called Canada.
This week on @CdnTireFire, we look at how far-Right politics + conspiracy theories are driving the current #OttawayConvoy + some of the anti-Semitic + fascist forces hoping to use the growing anti-mandate protests to launch their own "January 6th." https://t.co/eSEIbRi8MX
— It's Going Down (@IGD_News) January 31, 2022
But first, we wanted to share the news that two more people have been arrested and charged for participation in a Wet’suwet’en solidarity rail blockade in Toronto last November. Gary Wassaykeesic and Miguel Avila-Velarde are both now facing charges. Both say they will fight the charges and Wassayheesic adds: “How can you be charging First Nations with trespassing on their own territories, on their own land?”
Published on Jan 27 before the convoy arrived.
And talks about the organizer connections to white supremacy
How favourable language in the media allowed this movement to flourish
You have to address the root of the issue before you can deal with it
— Block By Bloc(k) (@NoOttawa) February 5, 2022
In other news, people gathered this week for a candlelight vigil in Markham, ON, to remember the life of Moses Erhirhie. Moses was shot and killed by police on January 21st, for unknown reasons. The vigil brought together families from across the Greater Toronto Area who have lost loved ones to police violence in recent years.
last night dozens of people gathered at the grocery store parking lot in Markham where York Regional Police shot and killed Moses Erhirhie. the vigil included several families across the GTA who've suffered police violence in recent years pic.twitter.com/7HEq5pdwLn
— negro frolics (@DesmondCole) February 4, 2022
“We want even simple facts like what were the circumstances — was he chased? Were paramedics called right away? Did he suffer? How long did he suffer for?” asks his sister, Edith Erhirhie, according to Global News. His friends and family still has not been provided any details as they process the unexpected and devastating loss. Moses’s death was one of at least 8 deaths at the hands of police across so-called Canada in the month of January, according to the Media Co-op.
With that, let’s get into some news from the so-called ‘Freedom’ Convoy.
Anger Grows in Ottawa against Anti-Vaxx Occupation; Convoy Protesters Attempt to Start Fire at Apartment Building
The #TruckerConvoy2022 pissing, shitting in snow banks and justifying themselves to take food from homeless shelters.
Closing businesses downtown wasn't enough eh.
Should have come prepared.
What the fuck is all that go fund me money for?#Ottawa #embarrassing https://t.co/xJ7meuxnoc
— Ashleyh8sU (@ashleyh8s) January 30, 2022
The far-Right, anti-mandate “freedom” convoy has been occupying Ottawa for over a week now, giving anyone living in the city a first hand experience of living with fascists. As the Guardian wrote:
The so-called “freedom convoy” – which departed for Ottawa on 23 January – was the brainchild of James Bauder, an admitted conspiracy theorist who has endorsed the QAnon movement and called Covid-19 “the biggest political scam in history”. Bauder’s group, Canada Unity, contends that vaccine mandates and passports are illegal under Canada’s constitution, the Nuremberg Code and a host of other international conventions.
Bauder has long been a fringe figure, but his movement caught a gulf stream of support after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced last year that truckers crossing the US-Canada border would need to be fully vaccinated against Covid-19. The supposed plight of the truckers proved to be a compelling public relations angle and attracted an array of fellow travelers.
Other organizers joined Bauder, including Chris Barber, a Saskatchewan trucker who was fined $14,000 in October for violating provincial public health measures; Tamara Lich, an activist for a fringe political party advocating that Western Canada should become an independent state; Benjamin Dichter, who has warned of the “growing Islamization of Canada”; and Pat King, an anti-government agitator who has repeatedly called for Trudeau to be arrested.
Since they have arrived in Ottawa, the extreme elements of the protest have been visible: neo-Nazi and Confederate flags were seen flying, QAnon logos were emblazoned on trucks and signs and stickers were pasted to telephone poles around the occupied area bear Trudeau’s face, reading: “Wanted for crimes against humanity.”
The official line from Bauder and his co-organizers, however, has remained focused; in a Facebook live broadcast, Bauder instructed his supporters to “stop talking about the vaccine” and instead stick to message of “freedom”.
Such strict message control has attracted mainstream support. Numerous members of the Conservative party, Canada’s official opposition, have come out to meet the protesters. Elon Musk and Donald Trump have both endorsed the convoy. Fox broadcasters Sean Hannity and Tucker Carlson have provided glowing updates on the continuing occupation.
Over the past week, a growing number of accounts have emerged from residents of the city of Ottawa, who have been threatened, harassed, or attacked for wearing masks or a perceived lack of support for the anti-mandate cause. Moreover, it appears that organizers did not consider needs such as washrooms or food, and protesters have been reportedly using the city as their public toilet and even harassing local shelter volunteers in order to get free meals.
Friends, it's been a difficult 24 hours. Staff harassed for meals. A service user and security guard assaulted. Through it all, you have donated and filled our hearts with gratitude. Every cent will support people experiencing homelessness. Thank you. See our statement ⬇️ pic.twitter.com/TYHD8r8aLo
— Shepherds of Good Hope (@sghottawa) January 30, 2022
As the days have dragged on, reports of violent attacks and assaults against people for wearing masks or for confronting convoy protesters has continued to be posted to social media. Over the weekend, footage also went viral of two men connected to the convoy protests, who attempted to enter an apartment building and set it on fire, after tenants complained about noise and non-stop honking.
I've been hesitating to post this publicly, but I feel I must for the safety of downtown Ottawa residents. Here are the facts:
Last night two arsonists brought a full package of firestarter bricks into our building's lobby at 5AM. The building is located at Metcalfe & Lisgar. 1/
— Matias Muñoz (@TiMunoz) February 6, 2022
According to the Daily Dot:
Residents of one apartment building clashed with protesters over the weekend. In the early hours of Sunday morning, two men reportedly tried to get back at them by trapping them inside and setting the building on fire.
Twitter user Matias Muñoz (@TiMunoz) posted a thread about the alleged arson attempt. “Last night two arsonists brought a full package of firestarter bricks into our building’s lobby at 5AM,” Muñoz wrote. Muñoz, who lives in the building, said one of the men taped the doors shut. “This is the most insidious part of the experience besides the lighting of the fire,” he wrote. He included screenshots from security footage allegedly showing the pair trying to start the fire and taping the doors. He said the landlord let them see the footage. He said that one resident came into the hallway as the men were trying to light the fire. Asked what they were doing there, he said that they admitted to being part of the trucker protest.
When someone wondered why the pair would admit to being protesters, Muñoz opined, “They seem really dumb.” He said the resident made a hasty retreat into an elevator and the men continued trying to set the building ablaze. “Once lit, it grew and nearly touched the wood panel walls,” Muñoz tweeted. “The arsonists escaped out the side door as video shows the fire growing.”
In response to these incidents, the multi-million dollar go-fund-me for the convoy was finally shut down after reports of these incidents. Alongside these attacks by convoy protesters, people of Ottawa have been fighting back in different ways. Currently there’s a growing list of mutual aid projects and self-organized neighborhood initiatives that are springing up to support those impacted by the ongoing far-Right occupation. This includes everything from mutual aid funds to organized foot patrols. Other people have simply stood in the path of vehicles; while others have begun to spray paint and egg convoy vehicles.
— AVK (@VaxxersAnti) February 2, 2022
— AVK (@VaxxersAnti) February 2, 2022
I don't know his name, but he's the hero we need. He stood peacefully, with conviction, and did not back down. Do we leave him to do this on his own, or do we join him? @cmckenney @JoelHardenONDP @SamHersh01 @timabray @smwgilbert @ShawnMenard1 #FluTrucksClan #ottnews pic.twitter.com/qhDdSJf7xg
— Sean Devine (@DevineSean) February 2, 2022
The weekend saw the announcement and cancellation of various counter-demos, but at least once over the weekend, a crowd amassed in Ottawa to face off with convoy protesters, including white nationalists with Canada First.
— Jason White (check!) (@CityJasonWhite) February 5, 2022
In a report back posted to North Shore Counter-info, one anarchist shared their reflections after spending the day observing protesters in downtown Ottawa:
I think the trucker convoy is a protest. I disagree with those who say it is a siege, an insurrection or any other overblown term, and think those ideas are coming mainly from Ottawans outraged that someone could be this loud and this annoying for this long. I would absolutely organize and participate in a demonstration exactly this loud and annoying if it were for a different cause organized by different people, so I don’t really see any merit in those concerns and definitely don’t think that being very noisy or very annoying somehow makes this more than a protest. There have always been liberals calling us terrorists too when we take up space, or claiming that our airhorns are weapons and they’re under attack by our refusal to leave. It is an “occupation,” in the sense that the Occupy Movement was an occupation, ie it seeks to take up space as a protest tactic and seeks to create a container for like-minded people to come together, encampment style. Like many protest movements there are revolutionary elements within it that would like to see it escalate into something much more. That could happen – it is a really big and successful protest and a lot of the people there seem very inspired and committed. But it hasn’t happened yet. It should be stopped before it does that, ideally by grassroots resistance and not by police repression.
Convoy Protests Expand, Face Push Back
— CaptCanuck, fully patched Antifa Secret Agent (@CaptCanuck6) February 5, 2022
Over the weekend, convoy demonstrations spread to major cities across Canada and continued in Ottawa as anti-mandate protesters expanded their occupation.
— Vive la resistance! (@LoanReads) February 1, 2022
In Alberta, anti-maskers set up a blockade at a border crossing, while the blockade in Coutts has managed to thwart one attempt at removal. One member of the blockade also tried ramming a cop car, but hit the car of an unrelated citizen. Occasional small convoys have been passing through Calgary and Edmonton, causing difficulties for staff.
— Bill O'Leary (@talk2oleary) February 5, 2022
While the convoy protests have been spreading, so too have counter-demonstrations. People in Regina held a small counter-demonstration an hour before the convoy was set to arrive. A group of people in Halifax blocked their convoy for a short while and, in Vancouver and Toronto, residents rallied at hospitals to try and prevent convoy members from harassing staff after healthcare workers across the country were warned against looking too much like medical personnel on the streets.
Treatment not threats. Health not hate.
We health workers refuse to hide. We health workers will never hide.
Access to healthcare in Toronto and across Canada should never be compromised! ✊🏾 pic.twitter.com/NhoAhV6FEO
— Naheed Dosani (@NaheedD) February 5, 2022
The convoy in Vancouver was also blocked and forced to turn back at multiple points, thanks to direct action from residents. The convoy was halted along a long stretch on Terminal Ave, then forced to back up. From there, residents set up in multiple locations, adapting as new info came in, blocking multiple routes. The convoy did succeed in making it near at least one hospital however, but residents of Vancouver showed they will throw down and stand up for each other.
— Claudia Kwan (@ckwanzaa) February 5, 2022
— Aaron Pettman (@AaronPettman) February 5, 2022
For ways to support ongoing organizing in Ottawa, check out the Punch Up collective and their resources.
Points of Discussion
As discussed in last week’s column, organizers of the convoy have clear ties to existing far-Right organizing. Some amount of discussion this week has been dedicated to speculating about the composition of protesters – what portion are genuinely disgruntled working-class people concerned about a policy that affects their bodily autonomy? What portion are purely there for an excuse to push far-Right ideologies? While it is difficult to parse a concrete answer from competing stories, it has been noted that workers of color, who comprise a high percentage of truckers across the country, have been vastly underrepresented among the protests. It’s also been noted that some of the organizers have been more involved with anti-union actions than they with building class solidarity.
Here is one of the signs from today’s protest (this is not a retweet — I took this picture on Bloor at Avenue Road) pic.twitter.com/U0ivCZkiu5
— Robert Janes (@rjmjanes) February 6, 2022
Yet, certainly at least some protesters fall in between. It should be noted that for those who emerged from vaccine-hesitant or more outlandish conspiracy-theorist origins, the right has effectively captured these emotions and is currently succeeding in funneling them toward something far more dangerous. Legitimate criticism has also been leveled at those who claim to be participating for purely vaccine-related reasons, but have no trouble participating along with those flying swastikas.
A quote from a recent article by the Anti-Hate Network outlines:
The people supporting this far-right occupation are both victims and perpetrators of misinformation. Most of them find their way to the movement beginning on mainstream social media platforms. The algorithms notice they engage with conspiracy content and far-right content, feeds them more, and suggest groups for them to join. Fellow travellers say the unvaxxinated are being persecuted on the same level as Holocaust victims and that drastic action is necessary. Eventually, they’re angry enough to drive to Ottawa.
Discussion this week has also highlighted the tension between calling out hypocrisy and double standards in policing, and not calling on oppressive systems we oppose to shut things down. The discrepancy between police violently arresting Indigenous land defenders, or park encampment residents and their allies, and their treatment of convoy protesters is stark. However, this should come as no surprise. We can never expect the police to protect our communities from white supremacy or other targeted violence – they are at their core a racist, colonial institution and will never be anything else. We can certainly point out these discrepancies and learn from them, but time calling on the police to act is time wasted. When our communities are under attack, the only reliable option is to defend them ourselves.