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At least a dozen people were arrested Sunday morning as Canadian police cleared crowds protesting vaccine mandates, Covid precautions, and the administration of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau from the Ambassador Bridge, a key border crossing and trade route.
The protests in Canada—which have attracted extremists alongside truckers, paralyzed the capital city of Ottawa and forced the busiest US-Canada border crossing to a halt—have spurred copycat demonstrations in other countries, attracting a melange of anti-government and anti-vax protesters, often fueled by conspiracy theories. The copycats include an anti-lockdown mob in Central London; encampments outside the Australian and New Zealand Parliaments, and protesters in Helsinki, Finland, creating chaos, slashing tires, and throwing bottles, as Vice has chronicled.
In the United States, organizers are using Telegram to organize additional convoys, as my colleague Kiera Butler reported this week:
Heartened by the size and disruption of the Canada protest, activists in the United States are now planning their own domestic convoys. On Telegram, leaders of the California anti-vaccine group Freedom Angels Foundation are urging followers to create national and local convoys, and calling on those who can’t participate to donate supplies.
Telegram threads from Southern California planning groups obtained by Mother Jones show that these groups, like their Canadian counterparts, have attracted extremists, including prominent white nationalists. Parents are heavily involved, too, offering the use of family vehicles and enlisting their children for moral support.
Yet despite the online chatter—and a Department of Homeland Security memo warning that anti-mandate truck drivers could descend on today’s Super Bowl—it looks like US “freedom convoy” copycats will take longer to materialize, if they ever do. Meanwhile, crackdowns continue. Canada cleared the Ambassador Bridge after a judge issued an injunction to end the blockade of the trade route. In France, Austria, and Belgium, authorities have banned “freedom convoys” from entering their capitals. Police in Paris fired tear gas at protesters yesterday after they defied the ban.
And in New Zealand, cops have made at least 120 arrests at the camp near Parliament. Speaker of the House, Trevor Mallard, pitched in by blasting annoying music to deter the protesters. Among the selections: Barry Manilow’s greatest hits, “Baby Shark,” and Matt Mullholland’s out-of-tune cover of “My Heart Will Go On.” As of Saturday, it wasn’t working.