From COVID-19 to the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine, facing another multi-national movement isn’t too surprising. Usually, these protests are treated the same way by government bodies: crowd dispersement, political damnification or praising, or letting them burn themselves out. However, a new current conflict that we haven’t seen before is the weaponization of 80’s soft rock and Disney’s Frozen soundtrack. This is exactly what New Zealand’s Speaker of Parliament, Trevor Mallard, has been doing in response to protestors gathered outside of the Parliamentary building in New Zealand’s capitol of Wellington.
The protests are part of the “Freedom Convoy” that began in Ottawa, Canada late last January in response to vaccine mandates for truckers moving between country borders. The protests are receiving international attention due to how large their movement has grown, evidently spreading to other countries such as New Zealand and France and their blocking of some transportation of goods over stretched trade lines.
Protests in New Zealand have been relatively peaceful, with protestors gathering to show their distaste with the vaccine mandate policies while singing along to the government sanctioned soundtrack of James Blunt and the Macarena. This is not the case with all the Freedom Convoy Protests around the globe, such as those in Canada. As of last Friday, there have been over 100 arrests of protestors and thousands of dollars’ worth of fines placed on the vehicles the protestors used to block the roads. This complete lack of law and order is being controlled and quelled by police officers both on the ground and with the use of horses, Ottawa Interim Police Chief is being quoted as saying, “We will run this operation 24 hours a day until the residents and community have their entire city back.”
In addition to the work being done by police officers on the ground, the Canadian Parliament enacted Prime Minister Trudeau’s requested use of the 1998 Emergencies Act, which gives the state the authority to freeze the assets of those who are suspected of using them to fund the protests and to suspend the insurance and business accounts of those vehicles found to be used at the protests. This step marks a major turn in the protests, into a more combative and antagonistic position by the Canadian government. With this major vote coming up within the required 7 days of evoking it, the first use of its kind in Canadian history, comes a major divisive thread between the left-leaning and right-leaning segments of Canadian Parliament.
Protests regarding vaccine and COVID mandates have grown in the last year and stem both from the ideology of the mandates themselves and the exhaustion of people dealing with the pandemic. Though protests, especially those of the Freedom Convoy, which are expected to return to Ottawa and other capitols across Europe, aren’t expected to quiet anytime soon, we can be hopeful that through continued protests and civic debate we can see our modern democracies in action to debate common and relevant issues in our populaces.