Ottawans Weren’t Passive in Pushing Back on the Blockade

Ideas and Issues Protests


Marble Falls    When you read the New York Times about the Ottawa blockade you have to distill quite a lot of high-powered spin to search for the truth.  Yes, some marginal right wingers were able to capture some of the discontent expressed by the truckers involved in the blockade, but it was more complicated than that.  Yes, the police laid down on the job and tow truck drivers were hesitant to remove trucks that are their bread and butter, but few in Canada seem to believe this warranted Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s evoking the Emergency Powers’ Act for the first time in fifty years.  Yes, there were some fringe extreme tactics, threats, and so forth, but in the main this was a nonviolent protest, even if punctuated by blaring horns from 18-wheelers.  Yes, the Times’ conservative columnist wants to posit that a class war has come to Canada between the “Practicals”, truckers and others members of the working class, essential yet often overlooked, and the “Virtuals”, the work-at-homers and part of the self-described meritocracy, but it’s a lot more complicated than that on the ground.   Yes, we’re also led to believe that the blockade had cowered the city residents and the left in this progressive town and country, and that they were hunkered down in fear, but that’s not a true either.

There’s more to this story including something that residents are calling the Battle of Billings Bridge reported by the on-line news service in Canada, The Breach.   So, yes, this has been a difficult situation for people in Centerville at the heart of Ottawa and the blockade, but Ottawans have been anything but passive.  Furthermore, they have taken things in their own hands by organizing counterprotest rallies (4000 plus at one) and a blockade of their own, which many believe forced the government and the Ottawa and Ontario police force to finally act decisively.

Importantly to my way of thinking, unions and union staffers were critical in organizing the pushback on the blockade, and, whether the New York Times and the gang like it or not, unions are still critical instruments for action by the working class.  They organized themselves as Community Solidarity Ottawa putting on the successful counter rally.  Buoyed by that success, when the blockaders published the route of their supply line coming to town with fuel for their adherents, they organized their own blockade to stop the fuel from arriving.  It started small, but as the confrontation developed and they blocked the arriving trucks, it swelled to thousands of supporters.  The police tried to convince them to allow the trucks to come in to central Ottawa, but, and you have to love this, they refused and only relented at the point that they negotiated directly with the truckers that they could pass, after left the jerrycans fuel of fuel behind.

Trudeau may have wanted the Emergency Powers to freeze bank accounts that were teeming with contributions from big USA donors and right wingers, but Ottawans proved in the Battle of Billings Bridge, as they began to call their victory, that people could meet people head-on and come to terms.  It’s not really class war when the left and right agree on many of the issues, just not the tactics, and, when it comes to tactics, what’s good for the goose is also good for the gander.