‘Freedom Convoy’ Pushed Back From Key Bridge as Bill Maher Slams Trudeau for 'Sounding Like Hitler’
17:25 GMT 12.02.2022 (Updated: 18:42 GMT 12.02.2022)
Ontario Premier Doug Ford declared a state of emergency across the province on Friday, threatening fines of up to $100,000 or a year in prison for any protesters who block border crossings, highways, airports, ports bridges, and railway lines while demonstrating against Covid vaccination mandates.
"Freedom Convoy" protesters blocking Ambassador Bridge, the busy border artery between Windsor and Detroit singularly accounting for nearly $400 million in daily cross border trade, refused to budge despite a court order demanding that they disperse, prompting police to advance on the scene and slowly push demonstrators away from the bridge entrance.
Protesters noisily fell back, taking down tents, barbecues, and other equipment they had set up at the protest site six days earlier and moving vehicles out of the way as police pushed forward. At least one vehicle was towed by police.
Footage from the scene on Saturday morning showed unarmed police in tactical gear and yellow vests flanked by unidentified personnel in olive drab uniforms armed with assault rifles slowly moving in on the protesters’ location and pushing into the crowd. Windsor Police warned on Twitter that they could begin arresting people “located within the demonstration” and “advised” protesters to “immediately vacate the area.”
Ontario Superior Court Chief Justice Geoffrey Morawetz issued a court order
for protesters to disperse by Friday evening, with police threatening to detain demonstrators and seize their vehicles.
Hundreds of demonstrators parked transport trucks, pickups and other vehicles in the border area nearly a week ago, clogging up all but one lane, with Canada’s transport minister Omar Alghabra characterizing
their protest as an “illegal economic blockade against the people of Ontario and against all Canadians.” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised his US counterpart President Joe Biden “quick action” to deal with the blockade.
Protesters told media on the scene Saturday that they would remain peaceful even if threatened with arrest and prosecution.
Bill Maher, the Real Time host who has been making waves among his traditionally liberal audience with pointed commentaries about government Covid-related policies, expressed support for the Canadian truckers in his Friday night programme.
“What’s happening this week, it looks like, is people are understanding this is about something more than just the vaccine mandate,” Maher said.
“It’s becoming a big thing. It’s happening all over the world now. They’re thinking it might happen here in Washington on Super Bowl Sunday,” the host noted, referring to a Department of Homeland Security warning issued to US law enforcement agencies this week that the Canadian trucker protests may spread south.
Citing a New York Times report which found that about 72 percent of $800 billion in Covid relief funds wound up in the pockets of the top 20 percent of income earners, Maher suggested that “this is what the truckers are mad at… all the money went up to the people who are in the top 20 percent.”
“You didn’t use that word ‘elitist’ in your whole speech, but that’s the word I think is on people’s tongues and minds,” Maher said, responding to a guest who suggested that people across the political spectrum were increasingly questioning unelected bureaucracies seeking to supplant individual freedoms.
The host went on to attack Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, saying he “used to think” was “a really cool guy.”
“He was talking about people who are not vaccinated. He said, ‘they don’t believe in science. They’re often misogynistic, often racist.' No they’re not! He said, ‘But they take up space. And with that we have to make a choice in terms of a leader as a country. Do we tolerate these people?’ Tolerate these people? Now you sound like Hitler,” Maher said.
“And recently, he talked about them holding ‘unacceptable views’…I mean come on! I think that’s what gets under people’s skin,” the host suggested.
Canada’s “Freedom Convoy” protest began in late January, when tens of thousands of truckers and their supporters descended on Ottawa to protest in front of Parliament Hill, and tens of thousands more holding smaller gatherings across the country in public squares and on highway overpasses.
Protesters are demanding an end to what they believe is government overreach on Covid vaccination mandates, including a requirement that truckers get the jab or face a two-week quarantine after cross-border travel to the US – a provision many unvaxxed long-haul drivers have said would bankrupt them.
Police have issued hundreds of fines, seized fuel and blocked millions of dollars of funding raised on GoFundMe, and the Canadian government and media have attempted to paint protesters as a potentially-violent fringe group.
“It’s disturbing when you see the protest turning into what looks like some kind of a fun carnival, where they’ve got bouncy castles, and hot tubs and saunas, a complete insult to the people who are putting up with this nonsense for the last seven days, and it shows a great deal of insensitivity,” Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson, who declared a state of emergency in his city on Sunday, complained last week.