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You can stop the convoy’s money, but not its momentum
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About a month into the pandemic, Ontario Premier Doug Ford dismissed those protesting against lockdowns as just a “bunch of yahoos.” The longer the restrictions have gone on and the more detached they’ve become from science and public tolerance, the larger – and more influential – that “bunch” has gotten.
Yesterday, Ford’s government froze nearly $11 million of their money.
Today, Ford declared a state of emergency and said anyone blockading border crossings or Ottawa streets could be hit with a $100,000 fine or a year in jail.
People have been living with governments enacting a steady stream of unconstitutional edicts with no parliamentary oversight and little political opposition, so I’m not sure “state of emergency” feels like much of a departure from what’s become the new normal.
It’s this descent into the permanent emergency that has galvanized the trucker convoy in the first place.
It’s noteworthy that these supposed yahoos, who Justin Trudeau more recently maligned as a mere “fringe minority,” are evidently so powerful the government needs to bring out the big guns and try to cut off their cash flow.
The order imposed by the Ontario Superior Court of Justice at the Ford government’s request prohibits GiveSendGo and the Freedom Convoy organizers from "disposing of, or otherwise dealing with, in any manner whatsoever" the money raised.
Translated from legalese to English, Ontario has made it criminal for Freedom Convoy organizers to do anything with the donations, even though they’re still pouring in.
The order was issued the same day the government requested it in a closed-door ex parte hearing – meaning the organizers had no idea it was going on and thus no opportunity to send legal representation. As former lawyer Ezra Levant noted in a comprehensive Twitter thread, it was just the government and the judge in the room, with no scrutiny of the evidence or arguments from anyone else.
The Massachusetts-based GiveSendGo says that Canadian courts have no jurisdiction, so it is still accepting donations for the Freedom Convoy and, it says, passing them directly to the organizers, who have established a not-for-profit corporation to handle them.
I don’t know the technicalities or legalities of the process by which the government of Ontario will enforce this court order, or what happens to the money while the order is inevitably appealed. While these are significant questions, I am not going to make the same mistake the government is in confusing the convoy’s money with its momentum.
It took less than a week for the convoy’s organizers to raise the $11 million after the previous $10 million they’d raised on GoFundMe was yanked away following pressure from Canadian politicians and police.
I have no doubt that by this time next week, the organizers will have found another $11 million, either through bitcoin transfers, bags of cash, or, in keeping with Canadian tradition, gold bars being thrown down the Rideau Canal like curling stones.
When Ottawa police started seizing jerrycans full of the gas and diesel used to fuel the trucks and generators at the convoy site, supporters flooded the streets with more jerrycans. Fuel canisters quickly became the hottest accessory in the nation’s capital – they’re so common they seem to pop up in every photo taken in downtown Ottawa like rebellious Travelocity gnomes.
The more government wants to cut the convoy off, the more motivated people will be to support the convoy, whose needs are rather basic.
What more do the protesters need beyond food and fuel – both of which can be provided rather easily without seizable money, as we’ve seen over the last two weeks. Perhaps without the excess cash on hand, the convoy might have trouble renting a fourth or fifth bouncy castle, but I’m sure it’ll survive that.
The money is not the cause of the convoy’s power, but a reflection of it. Big Tech clampdowns and court orders aren’t doing anything to dissuade the people in Canada and around the world supporting the convoy. It’ll only embolden them.
With Parliament Hill and at least three border crossings under the convoy’s control, the protest can only end violently or voluntarily. Language describing this as a “siege” doesn’t square with what Canadians are seeing out of Ottawa. This is a highly disruptive protest, but it’s still a peaceful one. And thuggish tactics aren’t going to work against a group of passionate, pacific, freedom-loving protesters.
This is especially true as onlookers start to see what the convoy has been advocating materialize.
Governments who even a few days ago were reluctant to lift any restrictions are quickly putting in place plans to do exactly what, with Manitoba and Ontario joining the list today. In fact, seconds before announcing the state of emergency in Ontario, Ford said the vaccine passports would soon be gone.
All of this is evidence the convoy doesn’t just have momentum, but also results. To borrow a phrase from Seinfeld, the convoy effect is real, and it is spectacular.
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