SCOTT TAYLOR: Waiting for the dust to settle from Ottawa occupation

On the evening of Thursday, Feb. 17, the Ottawa Police Service began their large-scale crackdown on the remaining hold-outs of the so-called “Freedom Convoy” that had occupied our nation’s capital for the previous 21 days.

As many of us predicted, the raucous would-be revolution petered out with nary a whimper.

At the height of the protest, the organizers had boastfully claimed that they were prepared to resist “Trudeau’s tyranny” “to the death.” Thankfully for all involved, the three weeks of noisy revelry and expulsion of collective anger had left the “Freedom” mob a rather spent force.

A wise course of action for the organizers would have been to seize upon Ontario Premier Doug Ford’s Feb. 14 announcement that COVID-19 masks and vaccine mandates would be lifted province-wide as of March 1.

The Freedom Convoy brain trust should have claimed this easing of restrictions by Ford as the victory they had been seeking through the truck protest. They could have then scheduled a celebratory “roll-out” along Ottawa’s downtown streets, with a few final air-horn blasts to signal their “mission accomplished” moment.

However, the absolute repeal of the mandates that were originally at the center of the protest was no longer considered a suitable olive branch by the radical fringe which had long since hijacked the Freedom Convoy.

For these hard-core holdouts, their revised goal was the ouster of the Trudeau government, presumably through fornication, according to the message on the majority of their signs and flags.

The organizers seemed too drunk on their newfound power, which included international copy-cat movements and hugely successful national fundraising campaigns – to recognize that the party was over.

It will take some time for the dust to finally settle on this occupation of downtown Ottawa.

Charges have been laid against organizers and participants, and there is now a $308 million class-action lawsuit brought against the protesters by Ottawa residents who were impacted by the weeks-long shutdown.

From a personal perspective, I reside in downtown Ottawa and therefore had a front row seat to this unfolding saga. Admittedly, I have been double vaxxed, plus a booster shot; I wear a mask in public and take all recommended precautions in the workplace.

I am also a strong supporter of the right to free speech and I try my best to be tolerant of others’ opinions. Unfortunately, despite the fact that “freedom” was the most shouted slogan of the protestors, they displayed almost zero tolerance towards those who did not fully support them.

In one very disturbing incident that was recorded on video and shared widely on social media, a purported military veteran berated a CBC news crew at the National War Memorial. The individual sported a green beret adorned with the cap badge of the Royal Canadian Dragoons.

The incident occurred on Feb. 12th after a group of self-identifying veterans had removed the police-erected barricade that enclosed both the War Memorial and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

To recap, on the first weekend of the protest, disrespectful “Freedom Convoy” participants had parked on the sacred grounds, urinated on the memorial and danced on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

To prevent a recurrence of such disrespect, the hard-pressed Ottawa police had sealed off the site with a protective metal fence.

Somehow, this group of veterans deduced that the obstacle was preventing them from paying proper respects to the fallen, so they simply tore down the fence.

It was at that juncture that the individual with the RCD beret took exception to the presence of the CBC crew. Without pausing his ice scraping on the steps on the memorial, the ex-trooper loudly demanded the news crew, “Leave! Go get out of here!”

When the CBC reporter attempted to mollify the veteran with words of support, the veteran replied loudly, “I don’t want to hear anything you say. Scumbag. You are an embarrassment. You are a propagandist. Leave!”

Cowed by the intense anger, the CBC crew beat a hasty retreat from the premises, prompting other veterans in the neighborhood to high-five and back slap the RCD veteran for his tenacious outburst at the hated media.

This particular video clip served as a lightning rod to illustrate just how extremely divided the veteran community is on the issue of the so-called Freedom Convoy.

Many of those commenting on social media pointed out that as well as being an ignorant bully, the veteran at the memorial has no authority to deny anyone the “freedom” to be at that site.

On a deeper level, one has to question why individuals would seek to make this a military issue by sporting their old uniforms and declaring themselves to be veterans on either side of this cause.

This protest began as opposition to a vaccine mandate for cross-border truckers. I fail to see why that would prompt an individual to adorn themselves with identifiable regimental accoutrements in order to somehow empower their individual opinion.

I have seen people waving the regimental flag of the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry at the protest, and while I proudly served in that fine regiment, I am not an anti-vaxxer.

Ditto for the many who have served in the RCD and are now tarnished collectively by the actions of the ex-trooper at the War Memorial.

As individuals, veterans and serving soldiers still have a right to their personal opinion and choice. However, when you seek to represent something greater by invoking your military affiliation you are falsely implying that you represent the collective.

Please allow us our freedom, and leave your cap badges out of any further protest.

Michael A. Bynum