February 22, 2022
The blockade of Ottawa by Canadian truckers has finally come to an end. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau invoked the federal Emergencies Act and Ottawa police moved in to evict the protesters, who were voicing their opposition to vaccine mandates. The truckers continued to wave the Canadian flag, but most either left peacefully or were arrested.
In the United States and Canada, we often romanticize protest — at least when we agree with the cause the protesters are supporting. Protesters are going to great lengths, and sometimes putting their lives on the line, to express their opinions on important public matters. They are exercising their rights to free speech and assembly because they don’t feel heard in any other way. One notable history of the protest movements of the 1960s is titled, “Democracy Is in the Streets.”
Or is it? Nonviolent protesters may be brave, but they aren’t necessarily informed, principled or acting in the best interests of their communities and country. Even when it is peaceful, a protest is not a safe space for people who disagree to negotiate and find common ground. It is not an environment that helps people absorb information and sort out fact from fiction. And protesting is dangerous, especially for people of color, indigenous people, religious minorities, and members of other groups that are already subjected to discrimination and violence.