Even as a strong advocate of the First Amendment, meaning free speech and the right to peaceful assembly, it’s hard not to be concerned about the “Freedom Convoys” of Canadian “truckers” that have been massing at U.S./Canadian border crossings. They’ve already had a destructive impact on both countries, disrupting trade and further damaging supply chains that were severely damaged by the COVID pandemic and only beginning to recover. Among the victims are auto workers whose livelihoods are dependent on parts being delivered and factories staying open. The participants claim to be protesting COVID vaccine mandates (their freedom, their freedom!), but clearly there’s a lot more going on here, including the fact that most of the “convoy” participants aren’t even truckers—they’re Trump’s MAGA minions and sundry members of the alt-right. (As a point of reference, it’s estimated that 90% of real truckers crossing the border are, in fact, vaccinated.)
Not surprisingly, the convoys are being cheered on by the right-wing media, including the crew at Fox News, and MAGA politicians like Senator Ted Cruz, who said the protestors were “standing up for freedom” and claimed they represent an “organic groundswell from the people.” (The fact that Cruz called it an “organic groundswell” all but proves it isn’t!) This isn’t an example of freedom of speech and their assembly is unlikely to stay peaceful; it’s another right-wing MAGA army of white vigilantes following their fearless leader(s). As former President Trump said on January 6, 2021, “Our incredible journey is only just beginning.”
“Stand Down and Stand By” Trump told his “Proud Boy” Minions
Even before Trump lost the election and took the country down the “stop the steal” rabbit hole, we all remember the presidential debate in which he shamelessly instructed his “Proud Boy” minions to “stand down and stand by.” Needless to say, “stand by” were the operative words. And just as Trump is now using the threat of more insurrection-like violence to avoid prosecution in three states, the MAGA right-wing is happy to have armies of minions at its disposal. When the Republican National Committee officially called the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol “legitimate political discourse” it pretty much said it all—Trump-inspired MAGA insanity has become the accepted norm in the Republican Party.
The MAGA right-wing is encouraging similar “trucker” protests in the U.S., perhaps targeting major cities rather than border crossings, despite the potential economic damage. Just when the decline in the Omicron variant has allowed for the relaxing of mask and vaccine mandates, the right-wing is once again stirring up its “base.” Right now the “Freedom Convoy” is disrupting the supply chain and hurting the economy, but what if they try to shut down whole cities and threaten the delivery of necessities (including food!) to millions of Americans? There is peaceful protest and freedom of speech, but there is also the danger of total disruption and chaos brought about by people whose only objective is political power. We can’t allow our country to be ruled by a far-right MAGA minority using the threat of violence disguised as “standing up for freedom” and “legitimate political discourse.”