“Freedom Convoys” beyond Canada

Zahra Khan, Staff Writer

The “freedom convoys” continue across the globe as protests against COVID-19 mandates spark frustration amongst citizens. The “freedom convoys” were first seen in Canada when truckers blocked several downtown streets. Canada’s prime minister Justin Trudeau responded with “never-before-used emergency powers.” According to the Washington Post, Trudeau enacted The Emergencies Act to grant various powers such as the power to the police to ban public gatherings near critical infrastructures, such as airports or border crossings. Scholars believe that the regulation is said to also establish “protected places” such as Parliament Hill, government buildings, war monuments, and more. The government will be able to compel individuals or firms to remove vehicles that may be blocking the roads, and there will be financial institutions of power to “choke off the convoy from the massive amount “of money it has raised through crowdfunding sites, in part from foreign sources,” according to the Washington Post. Trudeau has made clear this move does not mean any fundamental rights would be suspended or restricted on freedom of speech. 

This experience is not solely based in Canada; according to NBC News, the police in New Zealand’s capital made more than 100 arrests because thousands of protesters surrounded the parliament. Before protestors clogged the streets of Wellington, the Washington Post reports officials attempting to scatter the groups through playing songs such as “Baby Shark” and “Let It Go.” As a response, the protestors did not budge, and sang along to “My Heart Will Go On,” standing their ground amid cries of “freedom!” NBC News reports that demonstrators in Wellington “pitched tents and parked vehicles to block major roads surrounding the legislature since Tuesday.” The series of arrests were a direct result of a major clash between police and protesters as the authorities were trying to disperse the various camps. According to Wellington Police Superintendent Corrie Parnell, “around 120 people have now been arrested.” The New Zealand Police further tweeted “Wellingtonians have the right to conduct their lives and go about their business without the interference of ongoing unlawful activity,” 

According to NBC News, possible frustration over the COVID-19 mandates could be due to New Zealand’s maintenance of stricter travel restrictions throughout the pandemic, leaving some citizens stranded abroad and separated from their families. However, Omicron cases are still extremely prevalent in New Zealand and there was a recent reporting of 306 new community infections on Thursday, resulting in a total of 18,460 COVID-19 cases and 53 deaths since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The immediate spark of “freedom convoy” protests by truckers in Canada has caused a considerable amount of influence in New Zealand and Australia. Specifically, the opposition has started to arise in response to strict COVID-19 restrictions in Australia. The Australian “freedom convoy” protests saw thousands of protestors gathered around the country’s capital, Canberra. The government of Australia has claimed that it would reopen its borders to “vaccinated travelers this month after nearly two years of closures that helped keep death and infection rates relatively low,” according to NBC news.