Popping Shots and Riding Bikes: Trucker Convoys Are Still Going Somehow

“Freedom convoys” rolled in to Ottawa and Portland this weekend to protest whatever remains of the COVID-19 health measures and keep cops busy.
Mack Lamoureux
Toronto, CA
A motorcyclist participating in a convoy-style protest called "Rolling Thunder" in Ottawa, Canada.
A motorcyclist gets ready to ride along Rideau Street during a demonstration, part of a convoy-style protest participants are calling "Rolling Thunder”, in Ottawa, on Friday, April 29, 2022. (THE CANADIAN PRESS / Justin Tang)

The anti-vax “freedom convoys” continue to give cops in two countries massive headaches. 

This weekend alone, police in Portland, Oregon, said they’re investigating after a convoy trucker appeared to fire a handgun on a highway when counterprotesters confronted the group on an overpass. And in Ottawa, Canada, where the “freedom trucker” protesters first made their mark, police arrested at least 10 people—several for attacking cops. They were participating in a brand new convoy, this time riding on bikes. 

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The convoys are made up of largely right-wing protesters rallying around a grab bag of grievances centered around the COVID health measures and also the general idea of “freedom.” Following the success of the Ottawa Freedom Convoy, which shut down a major section of the U.S.-Canada border and terrorized the capital for several weeks, convoys have been the protest form du jour for the mainly working-class protesters. It’s a culture steeped in conspiracy that believes the COVID health measures are the first step toward global tyranny. 

The U.S.-based “People’s Convoy” started in the D.C. area, where despite bold claims of making real change, the truckers basically just drove loops around the Beltway for an extended period. Then the group came to Oakland, California, where egg-throwing counterprotesters chased them out of their city.

Last week in the American Northwest, the “people’s convoy” didn’t fare much better after deciding to head up to Oregon with their big rigs. 

In Portland, drivers were yet again met by counterprotesters wielding eggs—and paint-filled balloons—on an overpass of Interstate 205, as Daily Kos reported. The shot fired was “likely related,” Portland police, who were already there monitoring the situation, said in a news bulletin. No injuries have been reported and no arrests have been made, although the investigation is ongoing. 

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“Several officers were required as a group of about 15 people were yelling at and harassing the officers as they conducted the investigation,” the bulletin reads.

The gunfire was caught on video, not surprising since many of the convoy participants stream their drives on YouTube. The videos show the truckers stopping their vehicles in the middle of the highway before the overpass and trying—but failing—to spray the counterprotestors with a fire truck that was part of the convoy.  One convoy participant can be seen removing a handgun from his pants and exiting the frame. Shots rang out right after that.

"Shot fired, shots fired," one livestreamer can be heard saying in one of the videos.

The convoy eventually ended up at a sparsely attended rally in Olympia, where its members glad-handed with Proud Boys and conspiracy theorists, according to Daily Kos. They spent the rest of the weekend justifying firing a weapon at unarmed supporters.

Things were just as hectic north of the border this weekend. Ottawans had been holding their breath for several days as word spread of another convoy heading their way. The protest, dubbed “Rolling Thunder,” was sold as a collection of bikers rolling into town. Despite the difference in vehicles, the participants were essentially the same hundreds of people involved in the previous Ottawa protest.

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This weekend was the first time the protesters were in the city since police cleared the encampments, and it was a reunion of sorts for the protestors who haven’t seen each other since their fun ended dramatically in March, as the Toronto Star reported.

The protest, for the most part, was unremarkable and met by a large police presence. Ottawa Police said the 10 arrests they made were largely people breaching bail conditions from charges laid during the original Ottawa protest. Many now face additional charges, like assaulting a police officer or dangerous driving.  

“This one obviously was significantly smaller, and I think everyone in a position of authority did a much better job in terms of coordinating our response,” Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson told the Globe and Mail. Watson went on to say that Ottawans were “fed up with these kinds of events coming into our city.” 

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Protesters confront police during a demonstration, part of a convoy-style protest participants are calling "Rolling Thunder", in Ottawa, Friday, April 29, 2022. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Like many of the protests arising from the “freedom movement” in a world where COVID-19 health regulations have become fewer and fewer, both protests lack any sort of tangible goal. The freedom convoy in the United States, where all but a select few COVID measures have been removed, is focused on getting the government to revoke the national emergency declaration, whereas Rolling Thunder was a “peaceful celebration of freedom” rather than being against anything. 

The American convoy organizers, much like their counterparts to the north, are also planning  a return of sorts. At the end of the rally in Portland, the convoy organizers say they’re going back to D.C. and that this time maybe they’ll actually accomplish something.

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