When Black Lives Matter or other liberal protest groups block a road for an evening, there is no shortage of calls for violence. Right-wing legislators hastily pass laws that would make it legal to run over protesters, and conservative pundits flood the airwaves and social media to decry the unspeakable horror of holding up traffic for a few hours.
But now that a very loud but ultimately small group of white people in Canada have disrupted the flow of goods and people for weeks, their tone is, predictably, different. Black people and their allies protesting police brutality is an affront to the American project. But fighting for the liberty to contract an infectious disease and give it to your neighbor? That’s called freedom, baby.
It’s no coincidence that the BLM protests — large and diverse in nature — are treated differently than a small minority of white people protesting public health measures. The protests, which have altered significant parts of daily Canadian life, are providing American conservatives a taste of what they’ve been dreaming of for so long: white minority rule.
Conservative news media and other supporters of the Canadian truckers have made it a point to prioritize the feelings and wants of a perpetually aggrieved white minority who believe their so-called freedoms are more important than the health and livelihood of the majority of Canadians.
In late January, hundreds of truckers gathered in Ottawa to rail against COVID-19 health measures such as mask and vaccine mandates. Although many of the restrictions were enacted by provincial governments, the demonstrators parked their trucks in the national capital and demanded an end to restrictions. The protests escalated with demonstrators spilling into residential areas, blocking U.S.-Canada border crossings, and generally being a huge nuisance.
Now, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has invoked the Emergencies Act to allow his government to ban travel and public assembly, and cut off the flow of money to the protesters.
The extreme move has provided the truckers’ American supporters with new talking points. Fox News’ Tucker Carlson lamented that Trudeau had turned his country into a dictatorship. In his telling, a government just crushed a working-class revolt. I suppose it’s a lot easier to pretend you’re not clamoring to turn the U.S. into a racist ethnostate if you can gloss over it with the magic words.
Conservative American pundits are dead wrong about what kind of demonstrations these are. Far from a working-class revolt, these truckers have gotten millions of dollars from wealthy outside donors in the U.S. and Canada, according to leaked data from the GiveSendGo crowdfunding platform. And they’re not a representative group: 90% of Canadian truckers are vaccinated, and labor unions and industry groups representing truck drivers have strongly condemned the protests.
The wider Canadian public has high vaccination rates as well, with more than 80% of the population fully vaccinated. But if you watch Fox News, as millions do, you might think that Canada is overrun with unvaccinated people and that the protesters are fighting valiantly instead of throwing a tantrum.
Perhaps the best illustration of the absurdity of fighting for your right to spread a deadly disease was captured on the American side of the border. As part of its breathless coverage of the so-called protest, Fox News called in Jonathan Turley, a legal analyst for the channel and law professor at George Washington University.
“By this rationale, they could have cracked down on the civil rights movement,” said Turley, blissfully unaware of American history. “They could have arrested Martin Luther King.” Could have? Perhaps he thinks King’s famous missive was called “Letter From a Birmingham Vacation”?
But living in an alternative reality where anti-vax Canadian truckers have it worse than civil rights protesters who were assaulted and jailed routinely is a requirement for creating the dystopian nightmare they wish to subjugate us to.
As more proof that conservatives will latch on to anything that advances their cause, let’s check in on their crusade for “law and order.”
If we were to take their proclamations at face value, a dozen truckers blocking border crossings to and from one of our biggest trade partners seems like it would be cause for concern. But anyone who has been watching the conservative movement for the last 50 years knows that law and order is only for Black people.
And remember when everyone was blaming Joe Biden for the supply chain issues that have plagued the globe since the onset of the pandemic? For a week, the truckers blocked important border crossings, impeding the movement of goods and people. Auto plants on both sides of the border had to operate at a reduced capacity because they couldn’t receive the proper parts required for making cars.
Looks like supply chain issues weren’t that big of a concern after all, just a way to score cheap political points.
During 2020’s summer of racial justice protests, right-wing pundits decried the very tactics the Canadian “protesters” are using now. Several months later, when thousands of Trump supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol in hopes of overturning a legitimate election, the same people had plenty of excuses.
Like the truckers, the insurrections were very clearly in the minority. While most Republicans falsely believe the 2020 election was stolen, they still only make up 30% of voters, according to a 2021 Monmouth poll. And Biden received 81 million votes to Donald Trump’s 74 million. Yet, there they were, trashing the Capitol, demanding freedom from the oppression of the will of the majority.
After the people in power got away with inciting an insurrection, a similar truck blockade on this side of the border doesn’t seem all that far-fetched.
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) lent his support to the truckers by calling for an American “freedom convoy” that would take over cities like Los Angeles and Washington, D.C. “Civil disobedience is a time-honored tradition in our country, from slavery to civil rights, you name it,” the senator said. “Peaceful protest, clog things up, make people think about the mandates.”
His wish may come true. But at what cost? While there have been rumblings on social media about a copycat convoy set to arrive in Washington on March 1, there is not anything concrete — yet.
Right-wing pundits and Republican politicians would love nothing more than the ability to grind cities to a halt. They’ve spent the last two years openly fantasizing about how to transform our half-broken democracy into a true authoritarian state. There’s no doubt that in a country like ours, in which there are more guns than adults, a convoy full of racist lunatics would have more support than it does in Canada.
The goal has always been to put white, Christian men in power while the rest of us languish in the margins. Their full-throated support of the Canadian trucker convoy is another reminder that they will do anything and support anyone in the pursuit of their goal of white minority rule. Even burning the whole thing down.