New Orleans What can we learn from the Canadian blockade in Ottawa and along the USA and Canadian border? There are bound to be lessons worth examining even if the whole affair is a troubling bit of déjà vu and profound confusion. Déjà vu, because there is way too much of this that just seems, as one commentator noted, like January 6th on a stretched over weeks, rather than compressed in one day. Profound confusion, because for those of us who know – and love – Canada, it seems so un-Canadian.
The most obvious to everyone is the way the police in Ottawa seemed to have essentially laid down on the job on this affair. There has been undeniably disparate treatment by the police of these rightwing crazies compared to anything the rest of us might have tried to pull off. The silver lining in that cloud or perhaps the most disturbing thing about this, depending on your point of view, is that it demonstrates working class solidarity of some sort. The police underestimate these conservative cowboys, because they think “they’re one of us.” Some reports indicate that they have had trouble moving trucks that have been destabilized deliberately in the blockade, because tow-truck drivers aren’t willing to do the work. They depend on trucks and truckers for their livelihood, so they see moving the trucks as scabbing. The rest of us are so “other” to the police that they find it easy to move on us, as well as beat and shoot us, as it turns out, but, rightly or wrongly, they often don’t see most protestors as part of a working-class movement and in many cases they are right. There’s more that we could say about this another time.
These truckers are clearly not just truckers, but from other reports include former police officers and many with military experience in logistics, supply, and planning in their leadership. To me that says that this is a “movement moment” allowing them to pick up needed support. Fair enough. We need to respond to these kinds of moments equally aggressively.
They look like they’re having fun and eating well, which is always an important lesson to remember in demonstrations and mobilizations. Some of the video make the Ottawa affair look like a giant street party. That’s worth copying!
They raised beaucoup money quickly. Millions! Much of it from the States, but that’s also characteristic of a movement. One key lesson taught here once again is that if we’re going to be serious about our work, we need to develop alternative progressive payment systems. These GoFundMe and other systems just don’t work. When they going gets rough, they run. Some Christian outfit stepped up for the blockade folks. We need to develop our own captive systems that can respond quickly as well. Don’t count of PayPal and the like.
They may not have had a choice, given the immediacy of their vaccination issue, but winter didn’t faze this bunch. They could sleep in their trucks. That’s a hard challenge. Maybe we need more RVs? A phalanx of smudge pots? This is like a constant replay of the song, “country boys can survive,” but they’re showing us that many of us are not prepared, so we would not have been able to react. Look at what winter did to the Occupy movement. I’m not sure that we’re in any better position now.
As for the fact that this seems so un-Canadian, all I can offer these days is that it seems very American. Sorry about that, neighbors!