OTTAWA—As masses of truck drivers and other protesters demonstrate in Canada’s capital this weekend, rally organizers say they will stay until their demands are met.
“Now it’s a waiting game, and patience is a virtue,” said Freedom Convoy organizer Benjamin Dichter at a press conference in Ottawa on Jan. 30. “We’re in this for the long haul.”
Dichter noted that trucks are designed to be on the road for long periods of time and are often equipped with fridges and other amenities and can serve as shelters for the drivers. He added that the GoFundMe campaign for the protest had collected over $8.7 million as of Jan. 30, and it can fund the truckers’ stay in the city.
“They can sit for weeks and months,” he said.
The convoy’s request, Dichter said, is that the federal government end COVID-19 mandates and remove the vaccination passport requirement. He said they will ask the same of provincial governments.
“They’re next on the list. First, we’re starting from the top down,” he said.
The Freedom Convoy initially started as a protest over the requirement that all truck drivers crossing the U.S.-Canada border be vaccinated for COVID-19. By the time the convoy left the West Coast for Ottawa on Jan. 23, it had expanded to demanding an end to all pandemic restrictions.
Truck drivers and protesters from different parts of the country had arrived in Ottawa by Jan. 29, parking their trucks and vehicles in the Wellington Street by the Parliament Hill, and people packing the Parliament Hill and the surrounding areas while carrying flags and signs.
“Yesterday was just an amazing day … none of us have [ever] been so proud to be Canadian and to be so unified,” Dichter said.
“We’ve gone from being a, quote, ‘post-national state,’ where Justin Trudeau claims we have no identity, but we clearly do, because we’ve seen all the cultures of Canada come together, our native community, our Quebec community of French Canadians, people from out West, and the Maritimes. And we’re all on the same page, and we’re all a part of one big family.”
As the trucker protest began gaining more traction and becoming what many say is now a movement, many media reports and politicians associated the effort with racist and white supremacist groups. One commentary published on Jan. 29 had a headline that read, “While Canada cracks down on Indigenous and Black protesters, white supremacists get a free pass in Canada. Just look at the convoy.”
The composition of the protesters in Ottawa over the weekend was clearly diverse, with people of all different backgrounds joining in support.
Dichter said one of the messages of his group is to ensure politicians don’t try to divide people by using identity politics.
“Whether it’s through racial identity politics or just cultural identity politics, it’s over. We’re tired of it.”
Dichter added that many police officers in Ottawa have privately told the truckers that they support them.
“It’s nice to see all the love and support that they’re giving us face-to-face when we talk to them, which is great,” he said.
The Ottawa Police Service (OPS) requested additional officers from nearby cities to help with policing during the protests. When asked by The Epoch Times how long the OPS expects the protests to last, a spokesperson refused to speculate.
Convoy organizers said no representatives from the federal government have met with them so far.
Parliament resumes on Jan. 31.