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Truthout - March 5, 2022

After several years of far-right insurgencies in the United States, the Capitol riot on Jan. 6, 2021, and Trump’s return to public life, few expected Canada to be the location of the next great explosion of right-wing energy. Over the past several weeks, people around the world have watched as a series of protests and occupations — self-titled the “freedom convoy” — brought out long-haul truck drivers and others to ostensibly challenge the vaccine and COVID-19 mandates coming from the Canadian government. Despite being vaccinated at a rate exceeding 90 percent, some cross-border truck drivers were incensed at the vaccine requirements that Justin Trudeau’s administration has issued. This became a catch-all moment for anti-establishment right-wing activists to band together against Canada’s liberal political consensus.

While the protests in Canada saw thousands of participants and were able to block border entrances to the country, they were still largely unpopular with Canadians. The protests were planned by figures well known on the Canadian far-right, and have led to frightening incidents, like a giant spike in reported hate crimes and swastikas and confederate flags appearing with some prominence. As these trucks descended on Ottawa, and eventually other areas around Canada, counter-demonstrators also came together, outraged that a full-scale occupation of their communities was taking place and grinding daily life to a halt.

While the Canadian government declared a state of emergency and many of these protests have been quelled for the moment, the movement they started is spreading around the world. Right-wing activists first took up the mantle in places as far as France and New Zealand. It was only a matter of time, before a similar effort began in the United States. 

Left-wing organizers looking to defend their cities from a right-wing incursion were unprepared for a coordinated gathering of this size. But they soon launched mutual aid efforts of their own, helping people in the city who were unable to get normal resources. This included building on networks that had already existed and were exercised during the pandemic.

Sawyer’s group, the Punch Up Collective, began supporting these efforts, as well as the planning for a large demonstration against the occupation. There was a small rally on Feb. 5, but this was just a lead up to the much larger march that happened on Feb.12, led by a series of community groups and public sector unions that coalesced into the new group Community Solidarity Ottawa.

“There was a really huge interest in doing something public, showing public opposition,” said Sam Hersh, an organizer with the progressive group Horizon Ottawa, which joined the loose Community Solidarity Ottawa coalition. “There was such a palpable air of anger and frustration in the city. There were people engaging in things like direct action that never would have happened.”

Many in town were scared to leave their home, particularly given the reports of violence against marginalized people. ...
Read full report at Truthout