Judge Orders Anti-Vax ‘Freedom Convoy’ Truckers to Stop Freakin’ Honking

Judge Orders Anti-Vax ‘Freedom Convoy’ Truckers to Stop Freakin’ Honking
Truckers with the 'Freedom Convoy' assembled near the Parliament of Canada in downtown Ottawa on Feb. 7, 2022. (Photo: Kadri Mohamed / Anadolu Agency via Getty Images, Getty Images)

A Canadian judge has ordered the horde of anti-vax truckers clogging the streets of Ottawa to stop it with the goddamn horns already, according to the Ottawa Citizen.

Ontario Superior Court Justice Hugh McLean issued a temporary, 10-day injunction banning “horn honking and air horn blowing” in the city on the grounds that it interferes with local residents’ right to quiet. He was specifically addressing the members of the “Freedom Convoy,” which claims to be a grassroots movement of working-class truckers opposing mandatory vaccination requirements for commercial drivers entering Canada from the states. The convoy started in Vancouver before heading east and has snarled important border crossings like the Ambassador Bridge, which spans from Detroit to Windsor and carries around 27% of all U.S.-Canada trade.

Only a few hundred people appear to be involved. But parts of downtown Ottawa have been totally paralysed traffic-wise by the truckers, whose numbers include QAnon conspiracy theorists along with swastika- and Confederate-flag-flying white supremacists and has become a rallying cry for far-right extremists around the globe. Despite their claims to be a homegrown movement, many of the truckers are reportedly just angry right-wing Americans (a demographic which has also provided much of their crowdfunded financial support). Republican politicians in the U.S., including Donald Trump, have emerged as some of their strongest backers and GOP members of Congress threatened to “investigate” GoFundMe for halting a page that raised $US9 ($12) million, supposedly for the convoy’s operational costs.

The class-action case was brought by a 21-year-old Ottawa resident, Zexi Li, who compared the ongoing honking and hooting to a lawnmower running inside their apartment; some citizens have recorded noise in excess of 120 decibels, which for comparison’s sake is the rough equivalent of that generated by a chainsaw, plane takeoff, ambulance siren, or rock concert. The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention warns against extended exposure to noises in excess of 70 decibels due to the risk of hearing damage, and cautions that noises 120 decibels or above can cause “immediate harm to your ears.”

While issuing the order via a Zoom hearing on Monday, the judge agreed that “People have a right to protest various things in various ways,” but acknowledged the incessant noises could result in damage to locals’ hearing. According to the Citizen, McLean added that “Tooting a horn is not an expression of any great thought,” musing that was the case even if the form of protest had some “potential artistic merit.”

“The only purpose of this (horn blowing) is to bring attention to this protest,” McLean said in court, the Citizen reported. “There’s no need for that anymore. The public is fully aware of what’s going on.”

The judge denied a request to allow the truckers to blow their horns once a day at 5:00 p.m. local time. The order, as reposted by the Citizen, specifically authorizes any officers with the Ottawa Police Service or any other applicable jurisdiction to “arrest and remove any person who has knowledge of this Order and who the police have reasonable and probable grounds” to believe is deliberately violating it; it also orders the organisers named in the suit to post notice of the order to their social media followers. The sole exemption to the rule is fire service vehicles.

“My client is unbelievably brave,” Paul Champ, Li’s attorney, said during the hearing. “My client has been subject to threats, to vile abuse online. Her phone number has been put online and people have been calling her.” Li told the Citizen she was “utterly disappointed” city authorities had failed to take any action until the court order.

Keith Wilson, attorney for Calgary’s Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedom and three of the four named defendants, insisted during the hearing that the convoy is a “spontaneous grassroots phenomena that started in Canada.” His defence included that two of his clients weren’t even truckers and the third hadn’t blown his horn, the Citizen reported, as well as affidavits claiming that Ottawa residents aren’t actually bothered by the noise or disruption but simply dislike the convoy’s political leanings.