Double Standard Blockades

Canada Ideas and Issues Protests Workers


Pearl River     Blockades are usually pretty serious business.  Of course, there are a number of varieties.  As Russia encircles Ukraine or when ships block ports in war, that’s brinkmanship that could lead down a bloody path.  Another variety is becoming a more common tactic it seems for some groups.  That intrigues me, but I also find it very interesting the way that governments respond to this tactic.

In India, farmers reacting to a change in price supports from the conservative, communalist Modi BJP government used their tractors to block roads in Delhi and maintained an occupation of sorts for almost a year before the government recently conceded to many of their demands.  Given the percentage of the Indian population that still lives in rural areas and depends on agriculture, Modi was clearly stepping lightly around the blockade, needing their political support.

More recently, Canadian truckers, too many of them with Nazi emblems and Confederate flags, have blocked central Ottawa for the last several weeks.  Ostensibly, their protest was about vaccine mandates, even though the Canadian trucking association reports that more than 90% of Canadian truckers are already vaxxed.  On the weekends the number swelled up to 10,000.  Other truckers joined the protest trying to block border crossings, and, true fact, there really aren’t that many official crossings between the two countries.  As the blockade persisted, the issues have multiplied to include other conservative causes.  Millions have been raised.  Truckers in other countries have tried to copycat. The Canadian-brand have vast amounts of propane with raging bonfires and are building wooden structures.  Most recently, auto factories on both sides of the border have shut down because the chokepoint bridge between Windsor, Ontario and Detroit, Michigan, triggering direct conversations between President Biden and Prime Minister Trudeau.  Lawsuits and court orders are now replacing the handwringing and jawboning.  Police are supposedly starting to move to clear the borders.

Hearing from organizers with ACORN Canada wondering how we should react, since this was the topic du jour all over the country, including on the left, I had trouble getting past my feeling that if this had been us, we would have been pushed out and would be having this conversation from behind the bars of a jail cell.  It wasn’t so long ago during the Occupy moment that we watched police almost everywhere clear out public parks and private grounds using all sorts of rationales.  In those cases, the occupations were a long way from being a blockade.  In fact, if memory serves, what allowed a New York City event to go global was a march that blocked the Brooklyn Bridge for a minute and was then violently broken up by police within what we can accurately describe as a “New York minute.”

When pressed for a suggestion, I found myself arguing that if we could get 100 folks together, we should block some streets in Ottawa, and demand an end to predatory lending and real progress on affordable housing.  What’s good for the goose should be good for the gander, right?  Why would our actions be met by hard ball, iron fisted tactics and trucker renegades and right wingers face little more than patty cake?

Everything seems wrong with this picture to me.  What do we have to do?  Are we getting the message that our comrades need to walk past the new EV models from Ford and the others, and walk over to the big wheel multi-ton jobs that can block some roads and highways?  It might be the wrong answer, but that seems to be the lesson that the powers that be are teaching.