The truckers roll into town rudderless

As the nation’s capital, the city of Ottawa and its citizens are accustomed to their share of protests. As the seat of our federal government, stakeholders are continuously in town to address and bring publicity to their causes. So much so, that local residents are almost indifferent. Not that they don’t care, but they have grown numb because the parades are endless.

But the caravan of truckers who descended upon Ottawa over the weekend, was different.

Not only did the locals notice, but most were offended by the troubling actions of some of the protesters. These outliers were disowned by the Canadian Trucking Alliance even before they started their engines. And then, as a result of unruly actions, they quickly lost the confidence and respect of most Ottawa residents, as well as Canadians across the country.

The behaviour led many people to take to social media platforms, asking, “What has happened to some Canadians?” Good question. The same question surfaced during the last federal election when groups of anti-vaxxers intimidated and verbally abused health care workers and patients on hospital property.

Why did some of the truck protesters have to turn ugly?   

What was to be gained?

In other words, what compelled them to:

  • Urinate and dance on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
  • Insist on being fed by a homeless shelter and in the process, verbally abuse the employees with racist remarks
  • Desecrate our flag
  • Violate the Terry Fox statue
  • Fly Nazi and Confederate flags
  • Force the Rideau Centre to close its doors, owing to the fact that the protesters swarmed the premises without face masks
  • Intimidate local residents and create such a sense of insecurity that Ottawa Center MP, Yasir Naqvi, took to LinkedIn and felt compelled to post a response from the Minister of Public Safety, complemented by Municipal Councillors echoing similar sentiments
  • Obstruct emergency vehicles   
  • Prevent some children from going to school on Monday and,
  • Force businesses in the downtown core to be shuttered

Individually and collectively, their conduct was irresponsible and disrespectful. It was unnecessary to the mission statement and way over the top. And now, the movement deservedly lacks public credibility.

Even the mission statement was and remains dubious;

  • Why should some truckers be exempted from being fully vaccinated, when over 90% of Canadian truckers and Canadians at large, have their shots?
  • Why are they not also protesting in Washington, since the US does not allow the entry of unvaccinated drivers?
  • Why the hate-on for Trudeau, when the vaccine mandates are primarily under provincial jurisdiction?
  • Accordingly, have they whined against Premier Ford at Queens Park or Premier Legault in Quebec City?
  • And why did they not comply with the #GoFundMe campaign protocol, which has resulted in the freezing of some $8 million contributed by Canadians?

The initiative was misguided and disorganized from the outset. Moreover, the organizers sold the visit to Ottawa as a ‘truckers convoy’, and later transformed it into a ‘freedom convoy’. Really? They are the furthest thing from being freedom fighters! 

That honour and distinction belongs to the brave young soldiers who actually fought and gave their lives in protecting and preserving our freedoms and democracy. That belongs to the unknown soldier. That belongs to Terry Fox and other such heroes. That belongs to the numerous people and institutions who help build our sense of community.

In other words, the very people, monuments, and institutions that, over the weekend, some of the protesters desecrated and sought to tear down.

Barry McLoughlin is an experienced, savvy, and well-regarded communications professional in Ottawa. Over the weekend, he posted on LinkedIn an impressive and insightful analysis on what went wrong with the truckers. He stated that the movement was overwhelmed by what he called the “5 Rules of Crowds”.

First, poor planning will guarantee failure every time. Second, have a coherent purpose. Third, all crowds descent to their lowest common denominator, unless strong action is undertaken. Fourth, don’t attack the media. Finally, your ‘friends’ can do more harm to your protest that your ‘enemies’.

Barry nailed it.

As he outlined, the organizers had not built the necessary infrastructure that any serious protest requires. As thousands of people poured into the capital, there was no shelter, no food, no porta-potties, no speaker platform, no audio equipment, no coherent message, and no control of extremists.

In other words, the caravan was completely leaderless. Rudderless.

To add insult to injury, they are costing Canadians huge dollars. The Ottawa Police have estimated that it costs $800,000 a day to police the protest.

The organizers were exposed as the amateurs they are. Not only did they miserably fail the leadership test, but they also tolerated and took a hands-off approach to the extremists and bigots within their midst.

In boasting that they were serving the public interest, they instead created a public relations disaster. They badly blew their tires.

It's now time that they clear the streets and move on.

Photo: @JeremyPatzerMP