Working class residents of Ottawa have begun to take matters into their own hands. On Saturday, Feb. 12 there was a march attended by almost 4,000. This was followed by a spontaneous blockade stopping trucks trying to join the convoy on Sunday. This fantastic development shows how to defeat the far right. After the politicians and police have proven themselves unable to deal with the far-right of the “Freedom” Convoy, working class residents are showing the way forward.
This is a welcome development after labour bureaucrats and identity-politics leftists worked to sabotage previous rallies. But the anger had reached a tipping point and could not be contained any longer. The mass demonstration on Saturday was held far away from the convoy, but the turnout demonstrated to people that they were many in number and if mobilized properly, they could stop the convoy.
Fightback activists have been involved in the counter protests since day one and attended both the march at Landsdowne Park on Saturday and the blockade next to Billings Bridge on Sunday. There were other, smaller demonstrations in the city as well over the weekend.
These events also demonstrate the courage and spontaneous creativity of the working class. The blockade on Sunday next to Billings Bridge was organized by a dog-walking group on social media! At 9 AM, no more than two dozen people stood in front of approaching convoy vehicles. This became a rallying point in the city attracting hundreds, if not thousands, of people throughout the day and early evening.
Don’t trust the police
These events also demonstrate the dastardly role played by the police and which side they are on. By 1:30 PM on Sunday police had advised the blockade that members of the “Freedom” Convoy were approaching and looking for a fight. While police told the blockade to dissipate so that there would be no altercations, the blockade stood strong, relying on its own clear strength in numbers. The demands put forward by the blockade were that vehicles would be allowed to pass through only if they took down their signs and flags, including racist imagery.
Scandalously, the police started to push community members back to make way for the convoy vehicles. The blatant hypocrisy was obvious as the police had refused to do anything about the convoy, and the harassment and abuse its far-right supporters engaged in in downtown Ottawa. In the end the blockade was victorious as numerous people held strong against the police and convoy vehicles until the last vehicles acquiesced to their demands in the early evening.
Militant action wins
Sunday’s blockade in particular showed the kind of militancy that’s needed in the working class movement. The larger march on Saturday was called by PSAC and shows the potential for when the labour leadership puts out a clear call to mobilize. If the collective labour leadership were to put out a clear and bold call for a mass mobilization of everyone opposed to the actions of the far-right in the convoy, then the working class of Ottawa would do so in numbers far outnumbering the “Freedom” Convoy itself. With their numbers and creativity, despite whatever actions are taken by the far-right and the police, the mobilized Ottawa working class would be the most effective force to protect people in the city.
This is the perspective that Fightback activists have brought into the movement. But such a mobilization should not just be limited to calls to stop the right-wing thuggery in the city. We also have to stand for something. There is incredible anger in society and this needs to be captured by a militant working class movement. We have to put forward demands like higher pay and better working conditions for truckers, hiring more nurses, funding hospitals, and giving workers themselves democratic control over health and safety so that we can end this pandemic once and for all.
More and more working class people are in favour of building a true militant working class movement against the bosses and their government, who have done everything during the pandemic to protect profits over human health. The labour leadership needs to build a mass movement to tap into this anger. This is the only way to cut across right populist movements like the “Freedom” Convoy.