A convoy of trucks and cars have clogged the nation’s capital in the latest demonstration from fringe groups protesting against COVID-19 vaccines and restrictions, as Victoria’s Premier warned the definition of “fully vaccinated” could soon change.
An apparent off-shoot of a Canadian protest originally objecting to a new vaccine mandate for truckies, the ‘Convoy to Canberra’ convened around Parliament House yesterday afternoon with truck drivers, freedom rally participants, and “sovereign citizens” making up much of the crowd.
The Australian Federal Police were on hand as protesters held signs reading the Trumpian message “Make Australia Great Again” while others waved upside down Australian and red ensign flags — a distress signal.
The protesters demanded someone from the government emerge from the building to hear their demands, but parliament does not resume until February 8.
Get daily business news.
The latest stories, funding information, and expert advice. Free to sign up.
The Convoy to Canberra is a local spin on the Freedom Convoy in Canada, where a peaceful movement from truckies was co-opted by conservative and fringe groups to demand the eradication of all COVID-19 restrictions and mandates.
Nazi symbolism seen on signs prompted Canadian PM Justin Trudeau to slam the movement as an “insult to truth”.
The Canberra protest at least partly involving logistics staff comes at a difficult time where supply chains are already choking from workforce shortages, exacerbated by flooding in South Australia when parts of the railway linking the eastern states with Perth — the country’s “umbilical cord” — were washed away.
Unlike its Canadian counterpart, which has raised over $10 million to provide truckies with accommodation, food and fuel, the Canberra convoy’s fundraiser has accumulated $160,000 in donations. But the money was frozen by GoFundMe until the anonymous organiser comes forward to verify their identity.
It’s also been pledged to just one person — West Australian James Greer — who says he’ll drive his camper van to Canberra to protest vaccine mandates.
Harrison McLean, an organiser of Melbourne’s freedom rallies and of the Victorian contingent of protesters, said the demonstrations would “continue until our demands are met”.
The protest comes as Daniel Andrews warned booster shots may soon be required for Victorians to be considered fully vaccinated.
“There has already been some mandating done for third doses, and there will be more,” Andrews said on Sunday.
Today an admin from the 2022 Official Convoy to Canberra page urged protesters to be calm, saying the movement “make[s] no impact as a rowdy, rude, abusive or agitated crowd”.
“Reacting to agitators or threats from people or police, plays right into the hands of the media and the government. There are many families here and we need to all focus on keeping people safe. This is a peaceful convoy.”
But another person posted about creating a “barricade” that locks in Parliament’s new and old houses.
“Surrounding it completely will be a huge inconvenience, for all the staffers, that work there, and also the pollies when they arrive,” the post read.
“It will also affect them $$$, if tourists cant get through easily.”
The Convoy to Canberra has no links to the union, a spokesperson from the Transport Workers Union says, who confirmed it had not condoned or endorsed the movement.