The witch hunt for the cop who donated to the revenge-driven Freedom Convoy
If politicians and police forces don’t want to see a repeat of this winter’s protest in Ottawa, they would be well served to step back and try to figure out why the protests happened rather than obsessively trying to drive out and punish citizens who are found to support them.
The witch hunt against Const. Kristina Neilson of the Ottawa Police Service (OPS) who allegedly donated to the Freedom Convoy is only entrenching division and mistrust among Canadians.
The demonstration by Freedom Convoy truckers in February was unprecedented in Canadian history. Thousands of people supported by hundreds of thousands have chosen to cross the country to peacefully protest federal pandemic restrictions. Parts of Ottawa have been occupied by protesters for weeks, and the nation is still trying to figure out what happened and how the state chose to break up the protest. The country is still divided on whether the protest was justified and whether invoking the Emergency Measures Act was an appropriate way to deal with it.
What is the point of prosecuting and perhaps ending the career of a policeman who allegedly donated money to a demonstration in its infancy? Will the world be better or safer if Neilson is fired? Will the police be more respected? Do SPO leaders think this will lead to greater unity within the force or improved officer morale?
The Freedom Convoy demonstration did not represent the perspective of a small segment of Canadians, as is the case with many demonstrations. Despite constant attempts to label supporters of the protests as fringe extremists, polls consistently indicate that millions of Canadians supported the protests. Tens of thousands of citizens opened their wallets in support of the protest, and these were people who are not usually politically engaged. We should try to understand why so many Canadians, usually politically passive, felt such a protest was necessary. Their concerns were serious and they had the right to be heard. Taking a punitive approach with so many citizens will not quell the discontent.
People attending the convoy demonstration felt out of breath. They had lost their jobs, lost the ability to travel, and lost access to loved ones and events because they chose not to be vaccinated. These are not people who will be deterred from protesting in the future by threats of punishment. The state, including the police force and the courts, knows this. Their motivation in pursuing convoy supporters isn’t the prevention of future protests and civic actions – it’s revenge.
There is no doubt that the demonstration embarrassed the government and the police forces. They underestimated the scale of the protest and the dedication of those who participated. The state lost control and acted in panic rather than measured response. Nobody likes to be embarrassed, and a person’s first instinct when they’re embarrassed is often to lash out at the person who’s embarrassed them. The government is supposed to be better than that, however. The state seems petty and insecure as it relentlessly pursues peaceful women like Tamara Lich and police like Kristina Nielson.
The country has endured more than two miserable years of fear, restrictions and pressure due to the COVID-19 pandemic. We are tense, tired and eager to put those years in our collective rearview mirrors. People will not be able to feel the closure and the ability to move on with their lives as long as blood feuds continue against citizens for supporting the Freedom Convoy.
If the authorities had simply offered the demonstrators a modicum of respect at the start of the demonstration, the situation might have been defused in a few days. The simple fact of meeting and listening to the thousands of people gathered in Ottawa would have calmed the situation, even if the demands of the demonstrators had not been met. Instead, the government branded supporters of the convoy as racists, fascists and extremists, which infuriated and prompted protesters to dig in.
Canada is divided and it is not impossible to imagine another round of protests if some form of pandemic restriction is imposed again.
Historically, state efforts to quell rebellion by martyring citizens have only served to add fuel to the fire.
The government can’t go back, but it’s not too late to learn from its mistakes and start treating disgruntled citizens with respect. This can start with ending the vindictive pursuit of Freedom Convoy supporters.
The opinions expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of The Epoch Times.