Trucker convoy organizer calls for ‘peaceful protest’ without ‘violence’ or ‘threats’

As a convoy of truckers rolls towards Ottawa with the stated goal of protesting COVID-19 vaccine mandates, an organizer is urging participants to “hold a peaceful protest.”

Tamara Lich, who posted the video to the Facebook group Freedom Convoy 2022, made the comment on Tuesday morning — just hours before Global News reported that far-right and white nationalist groups see the convoy as an opportunity.

She said she wants to make it clear that the most extreme voices do not reflect the position of the protesters.

“As you know, we are on our way to Ottawa to hold a peaceful protest. I just want to put it out there that nobody in this convoy will be inciting violence or uttering threats. That is not what we’re here to do,” Lich said in the video.

“If you see anybody trying to associate themselves with us that is acting in that way, you need to get their truck number and their licence plate and report it to the police and get it to us and we’ll report it to police. That is not our mandate. Violence and threats is not our mandate.”

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Read more: As trucker convoy rolls to Ottawa, grocery stores say supply issues have ‘started to ease’

The convoy initially kicked off with a focus on opposing vaccine mandates — especially the one aimed at truckers. The government announced in November 2021 that all Canadian truckers looking to cross the border from the United States would need to be vaccinated in order to avoid a 14-day quarantine. The United States also instituted its own ban on unvaccinated truck drivers on Saturday, a week after Canada implemented its policy.

When the Canadian vaccine policy came into effect on Jan. 15, many truckers and politicians came out against the mandate — and just over a week later, on Jan. 23, truckers hit the road in protest.

In a post from the Freedom Convoy 2022 Facebook page, the organization said the trucking convoy is “anti government mandates,” explaining they oppose any vaccine mandates — not just the one for truckers. That message, however, has become muddied as the movement grows.

Click to play video: 'Ottawa police say they’re preparing for a ‘range of potential risks’ as trucker convoy rumbles closer to city'

0:43 Ottawa police say they’re preparing for a ‘range of potential risks’ as trucker convoy rumbles closer to city

Ottawa police say they’re preparing for a ‘range of potential risks’ as trucker convoy rumbles closer to city

One of the groups associated with the event, Canada Unity, has produced a pseudo-legalistic “memorandum of understanding” they plan to present to Gov. Gen. Mary Simon and the Senate, which they mistakenly believe would force the government to rescind COVID-19 public health measures, or force the government to resign en masse.

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On the protesters’ Zello chat, which is a walkie-talkie app, many supporters expressed their hope that their protest would result in an end to vaccine mandates and other public health measures. But despite organizers’ promises of peaceful protest, moderators would sometimes have to rein in more violent comments.

“If anything we should grab Trudeau by the g—mn neck and kick the s–t out of him for what he’s done,” said one user, who was immediately reminded by several others to keep things “peaceful.”

Read more: Far-right groups hope trucker protest will be Canada’s ‘January 6th’ 

One supporter, described by anti-hate activists as a far-right vlogger, said in a recent YouTube clip that he’d “like to see our own January 6 event…. See some of those truckers plough right through that 16-foot wall.”

But organizers are pushing back on anyone deviating from their message, which is to keep the protest peaceful.

“This is about your rights and freedoms, and we are not here to be violent or anything like that,” Lich said.

“That is not our mission. That is not our mandate.”

Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, Transport Minister Omar Alghabra said “protest is an essential element of democracy.”

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“People have the right to protest. It needs to be peaceful, it needs to be respectful,” he said.

“I am hopeful and confident that protesters will respect our laws. After all, they’re advocating for the rule of law, and law and order.”

Alghabra added that “matters of security” are left to “security agents.”

Click to play video: '“Freedom Convoy” in protest of federal COVID-19 vaccine mandate'

5:11 “Freedom Convoy” in protest of federal COVID-19 vaccine mandate

“Freedom Convoy” in protest of federal COVID-19 vaccine mandate

According to the Ottawa police, rally organizers have told them that Saturday’s protest will be “a significant and extremely fluid event” that could go on “for a prolonged period.”

“We are planning for a range of potential risks, including but not limited to counterdemonstrations, blocking of intersections, interfering with critical infrastructures, and unlawful and violent activity,” said Ottawa’s acting deputy police chief Trish Ferguson.

She added residents should “avoid travel in the city core, if possible.”

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The demonstration is expected to begin on Saturday around lunchtime.

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.


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