For occupiers, “it was Woodstock.” For Ottawans, not so much

They came, they saw, they partied.

The Freedom Convoy arrived in Ottawa in January with the goal of having raising a ruckus and having fun.

One of the organizers, Pat King, told an inquiry into the use of the Emergencies Act: “I’ve never seen anything more loving and peaceful in my life. It was Woodstock.” Another organizer, Tamara Lich, called the convoy “the biggest lovefest I’ve ever participated in.”

image: CTV News Ottawa

The Ottawa occupiers set up a massive stage and wooden tower to be used as a broadcast center. Live bands belted out rock covers from the stage, DJs spun music, bagpipers played doleful tunes, all punctuated with enthusiastic screams of “Freedom” from the crowd.

“All the love coming in, it helps us guys on the ground,” said protester Chris Dacey, as dance music throbbed from a stage and people lined up for hot dogs at a nearby stand.

What didn’t seem to occur to the occupiers was that they had moved into a city where people lived. Ottawa wasn’t uninhabited. It was no terra incognita, a land where the hated prime minister was seen fleetingly through the trees.

The occupiers wanted to party.  And if the round-the-clock noise upset the denizens of Ottawa, too bad.

The level of conceit on the part of occupiers was stunning. The exhaustion and rage experienced by Ottawans as was of little consequence.

At the inquiry, a lawyer asked King about a video in which he chortled that it was “pretty hilarious” that people in the protest zone hadn’t slept for 10 days.

After at first mumbling half an apology, King doubling down on the idea that it was hilarious.

“You see, we’d been locked down for two years, and people are complaining that they heard horns for 10 days? Did they remember what we went through for the last two years?”

This is what passes for logic in the minds of the occupiers. The inconvenience of not having access to movies and restaurants because they refused to get vaccinated was justification for punishing a city with noise and mayhem,

It didn’t occur to them that everyone had suffered through the lockdown of the pandemic.

I’ve seen this sweep of euphoria before where an idea propagates through social media. It starts with an idea and turns into an actual event where the like-minded meet.

I was drawn to such an event on October 15, 2011 in front of the downtown library in Kamloops. It was billed as Occupy Kamloops. I wrote about the meeting and subsequent events in a chapter in a book titled Building Community in Kamloops: Social Justice in Action. Of the day, I said:

“It seemed that anything was possible that day in downtown Kamloops. Not just in Kamloops but all over the world. More than 950 demonstrations had been planned in 82 countries on every continent.”

Talk of correcting social inequality captured the imagination of the Kamloops community. A camp was set up and donations poured in. Eventually, the hard reality of impending winter demanded its own reality.

Vague promises of freedom in Ottawa and overthrow of the government bogged down in noise and fatigue.

Such movements flair brightly and burn out quickly. Bold talk dissipates thinly in the cold air of a Canadian winter.

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