If you are going to attempt to start a radical protest movement with the goal of challenging elected officials, causing widespread disruption of traffic in cities, and blockading specific sensitive areas such as border crossings, at least own it – don’t try to pretend it was something else.
Over the past two weeks of watching key Freedom Convoy figures like Tamara Lich and Marco Van Huigenbos testify at the Emergencies Act Commission, they somehow, perhaps because of ongoing legal issues, refused to do that.
Their statements that somehow what they were attempting to do, by ignoring police orders to disperse and occupying the downtown Ottawa and the border at Coutts for nearly three weeks, was somehow a “peaceful” protest and not a direct challenge to law and order, or an attempt to intentionally disrupt trade between Canada and the United States to advance their agendas, beggars belief.
As one who took part in a protest or two back in my college days, I know from experience that the passion of the moment can easily carry one away, and turn a peaceful protest into an angry mob. If you have good organizers and strong leaders, that doesn’t happen – they stay in control and curve those herd instincts toward safer and less radical protest activities. If that organizing force is absent, lacking, or perhaps even hell-bent on disruption, anything you would never contemplate doing under normal circumstances becomes possible, and even likely, under the pull of herd mentality.
Under normal circumstances, law-abiding citizens would never think to defy police as openly as the Freedom Convoy protesters did. Under normal circumstances, when the police tell you to leave a scene of an illegal occupation, most people would leave. But when those herd-like passions are stirred, strong emotion is in the air, and you have a leadership that is inclined to be defiant, those normal circumstance responses do not apply.
Whether you agree or disagree with the philosophies and goals that drove the Freedom Convoy movement, to paint it as anything but a radical defiance of Canadian law and social norms is to cheapen what the movement was trying to achieve. Does it mean Canada needed to invoke the Emergencies Act to end it? Probably not; if the Ottawa police and the local political response had not been so dysfunctional to begin with.
Did it mean police had to move in using their existing powers under the law to remove blockades and convoys when many organizers clearly had no intention of departing of their own free wills? Yes, of course it did. One thing that came out of the convoy leaders’ testimonies over the past two weeks is that not one of them had control over all the groups who showed up, but their intentions to make a statement and disrupt norms were clear.
So own it.