Eleven days into an unruly occupation against coronavirus restrictions that has paralyzed Canada’s capital, the protests have become a rallying cry for powerful far-right and anti-vaccine groups around the world that have made the cause their own.
The demonstration in Ottawa started in January as a loosely organized convoy of truck drivers and protesters rumbling across the country to oppose the mandatory vaccination of truckers crossing the U.S.-Canada border. It soon attracted the support of other Canadians exhausted by nearly two years of pandemic restrictions.
Some were clearly on the fringe, wearing Nazi symbols and desecrating public monuments. But many described themselves as ordinary Canadians driven to take to the streets by desperation.
On Sunday, after a weekend of boisterous demonstrations, the authorities in Ottawa declared a state of emergency and said the police were overwhelmed. “We continue to employ all available officers, there are no days off,” the Ottawa police chief, Peter Sloly, said Monday. “This is not sustainable.”
The message at the heart of the protests — that government has been overreaching for too long — has resonated far away across Canada’s borders.
Donors have contributed millions of dollars in online campaigns with hashtags, images and messages of support spreading widely across social media platforms.
Photos of the Canadian truckers appeared on anti-vaccine groups on Facebook and other social networks about two weeks ago. Since then, prominent far-right figures in numerous countries, including the United States, Australia and Germany, have praised the protests, spreading the images and arguments even more widely.