The mysteriously sourced “Freedom Convoy 2022” account on the GoFundMe crowd-funding site sat at more than $9.5 million yesterday. Its fund-raising goal, which has been repeatedly ratcheted up over the past two weeks, is now $10-million.
Meanwhile, as the occupation of their city by far-right “freedom convoy” anti-vaccine-mandate protesters continues into its fourth full day today, Ottawa citizens are furious.
Naturally, they’re angry at the threatening behaviour of many of the protesters, thuggish tantrums thrown at young store clerks over masking rules, human excrement left on doorsteps, ambulances pelted with rocks, giant trucks racing through red lights, parked semi-cabs spewing diesel fumes night and day, all night drinking parties.
But they’re also fuming at their city government and police service, both of which seem to have washed their hands of the chaos, and a Conservative provincial government that is siding with the people who are making them miserable.
I asked a friend in Ottawa yesterday what it was like in our nation’s capital on Day 3 of mob rule.
“Things are bad here,” they responded. “They closed most stores, including liquor stores, so the mob is moving around more.”
Most people are avoiding going out – it’s a lockdown of sorts, they explained, except the contagion you have to avoid is not a virus, but a group of people who, I’m sorry to report, will always be associated with Western Canadians, and Albertans in particular.
The levels of government that have the most jurisdiction to act – the city and the province – are doing little. People feel there is no leadership from the mayor, who doesn’t plan to run again. Ontario Premier Doug Ford is dog-whistling his support for the protesters, my friend said. Bridges are closed.
“The people here are boiling mad.”
So this backs up what Ottawa City Councillor and mayoral candidate Catherine McKenney tweeted yesterday: “Illegal & disturbing activity continues throughout our residential neighborhoods. I’ve heard from 100s of residents who are tired & frightened at what they are experiencing in their neighbourhoods.”
Citizens like this one, no doubt, who asked: “@OttawaPolice not sure what your intent is but this lack of action is making people believe that they can get away with everything because they drive big trucks. Call in the army. Push back & treat them the way they are bullying and threatening the citizens. When is enough, enough?”
In other words, it feels a lot like this Beaverton joke: “The Ottawa Police Service issued a statement apologizing to the protesters that descended on the nation’s capital this past weekend for any trouble their presence may have caused to members of the convoy. ‘While it may seem from early reports that demonstrators were able to act with total impunity, we want to express our regret if any of our officers got in their way.’”
What does this have to do with that $9.5-million plum hanging out there on GoFundMe.com for all the world to see?
Well, what’s the first thing citizens do in a society where the rule of law prevails when they are faced, individually or collectively, with an intolerable situation?
They call a lawyer and they file a lawsuit, of course.
So let me make a not-so-bold prediction: Maybe the good citizens of Ottawa can’t fight City Hall, as the old expression goes. Maybe the cops are never around when you need them. Maybe there’s not much they can do about Mr. Ford until the next Ontario provincial election.
But, by God, that $9.5 million has a target on it.
So too, I would suggest, do some of the trucks that are causing problems on the residential streets of Ottawa. They shouldn’t be hard to track down once they skedaddle back to Alberta or wherever. After all, everybody has a cellphone with a high-quality camera on it nowadays.
I wouldn’t be surprised some sharp Ottawa lawyers are burning the midnight oil right now figuring out how they can get the GoFundMe permanently frozen and claim damages from it for a myriad of grievances.
And not just lawyers. Mathieu Fleury, another Ottawa City Councillor tweeted yesterday on his protected Twitter account that the city of Ottawa should go after the GoFundMe account to recover policing costs of more than $800,000 a day. “I have asked the city manager and city solicitor to immediately launch court proceedings targeting the millions of dollars in funds frozen by @GoFundMe so Ottawa taxpayers are not left holding the bag for these protests,” he said.
He won’t be the last.
So that’s my prediction. Even when the snow squalls that come to Ottawa every spring are gone, a blizzard of legal writs will be heading west against the prevailing winds, right in the direction of that GoFundMe jackpot.
Copycat blockade at Coutts ‘no longer lawful’
Speaking of trucker blockades, according to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the copycat critical infrastructure obstruction at Coutts, Alberta, is after three days “no longer lawful.”
According to the Canadian Press, the RCMP said “resources are in place to make arrests and tow away vehicles if they are unable to resolve the conflict in Coutts.” (Emphasis added.)
Actually, as the Mounties would not hesitate to do in other circumstances, making a few arrests and towing away a few vehicles is an effective way to resolve conflicts like the one near the U.S. border, which now threatens to disrupt supply chains to and from Alberta.
Needless to say, United Conservative Party MLAs who take part in such illegal activities deserve an opportunity to spend some time sitting as Independents in the Legislature as well.
NOTE: This story has been updated with Ottawa Councillor Mathieu Fleury’s comment. DJC