Freedom Convoy inspires COVID trucker protests in New York, LA, DC

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A week-long “Freedom Convoy” trucker protest in Canada that closed the busiest border crossing into the United States has inspired protests by truckers around the world.

Including in the United States.

Dozens of vehicles and hundreds of people gathered Saturday and Sunday near the Peace Bridge in Buffalo, New York, which connects to the Ontario town of Fort Erie. Protesters waved American flags, honked their horns and held up banners saying “my body my choice” and “do not conform”.

Among the organizers was Convoy to Save Americaa group that praised the Canadian effort.

“We saw the joy spread as everyone came together to stand up for the freedom to choose,” Pennie Fay, one of the group’s founders, said in a statement. “The convoy to save America carries the same message of unity, solidarity and peace.”

Fay said the group stood together for the right to choose — “no mandates, no mask rules, no more lies.”

The bridge was not closed, but protesters caught the attention of New York Governor Kathy Hochul, who visited an interagency command center in Buffalo.

“We are prepared for any impact from protests near the Canadian border,” she said. “We stand ready to deal with any potential disruption to travel and trade and also to ensure that we can protect everyone’s right to peaceful protest.”

REOPENING OF THE AMBASSADOR BRIDGE: Police evacuate protesters

Another group, the People’s Convoy, is planning a cross-country convoy beginning in Los Angeles and ending in Washington, DC Dates were to be announced as early as Monday.

Canada’s “freedom convoy” in Windsor, Ontario closed the Ambassador Bridge to Detroit. It took several tow trucks and more than a dozen arrests over the weekend before the protest was dissolved and the bridge reopened. Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer called it a “Winning for Michigan Families.”

“It’s time to restart traffic and trade through North America’s busiest land border crossing,” Whitmer said. She pledged to “do whatever it takes to keep our businesses running.”

The protesters, who also wreaked havoc in the capital city of Ottawa for three weeks, say they oppose Canada’s COVID-19 rules. Truckers specifically targeted a mandate requiring drivers entering Canada to be fully vaccinated or subject to testing and quarantine requirements.

But Colleen Sinclair, a counter-protester who lives in Ottawa, said all protesters had their say and needed to move on. Or the police should chase them away, she said.

“I am angry at what is happening. This is not Canada,” Sinclair said. “They are occupiers. This is domestic terrorism and we want you out of our town. Go home.”

REOPENING OF THE US-CANADA BRIDGE: Week-long trucker protest targeted COVID warrants

In western Canada, a major truck border crossing between Surrey, British Columbia, and Blaine, Washington, was closed on Sunday after Canadian authorities said a few vehicles broke through the barricades of the police and that a crowd had entered the area.

Ontario protesters could claim a small victory on Monday when Premier Doug Ford announced he would lift proof of vaccination requirements in two weeks. Ford said the decision was not the result of the protests but was made because “it’s safe to do”. Proof of vaccination is required to enter restaurants, gyms and sporting events.

Some US leaders have expressed strong support for truckers. President Donald Trump said he was proud that many protesters were holding Trump banners. Republican Senator from Kentucky Rand Paul, in an interview with the conservative media site Daily signalsaid civil disobedience can “clog things up, make people think” about mandates.

Part of the blame for the Canadian protests lies with US officials who mandated Canadian truckers to come here, Paul added.

“Part of that, we started,” Paul said. “The truckers are pissed off. They travel alone in a taxi, most of them eight to ten hour trips, and they just want to do what they want to do. That’s their business.”

The Canadian protests have also inspired convoys and demonstrations around the world.

Hundreds of cars, motorhomes and trucks taking part in a protest convoy were preparing to enter Brussels on Monday after a weekend demonstration in Paris that led to nearly 100 arrests, France 24 reported. Brussels has already banned the demonstration.

Amsterdam nightclubs remained open on Saturday night in solidarity with protests in The Hague against restrictions in the Netherlands. In New Zealand, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on Monday accused protesters of “intimidation and harassment” who wreaked havoc in the capital of Wellington last week.

“This cannot be tolerated,” she said.

Contribute: The Associated Press

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