News National How the Canadian truck drivers’ protest wound up outside Parliament House, minus the trucks
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How the Canadian truck drivers’ protest wound up outside Parliament House, minus the trucks

Canberra Convoy Parliament
There was hardly a truck in sight when the Canberra convoy arrived outside Parliament House. Photo: AAP
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Groups of anti-vaxxers from around Australia descended on Parliament House on Monday in what appeared to be a local offshoot of the truck drivers’ Freedom Convoy in Canada.

However, one thing appeared to be missing – the trucks.

Although the timing and truckie-centric rhetoric tied the Canberra protest to the events in Canada, the attendees were largely the same crowd who have been flocking to anti-lockdown and anti-vaccine rallies for months in Australia.

“They’re piggybacking off the Canadian protest. But I don’t think it should be downplayed that Australia’s got a proud tradition of failed flagwit truck convoys,” far-right researcher Dr Kaz Ross told The New Daily.

Monday’s vehicle rally followed last year’s truck driver blockade of a Gold Coast highway and the planned obstruction of Melbourne’s West Gate Bridge – both of which fizzled out due to small turnouts.

Convoy for Freedom Australia
Claimed members of the convoy driving through NSW. Photo: Facebook

Notably, the convoys to Canberra from NSW, Victoria, Queensland and even Western Australia were dominated by cars.

One protester filmed himself using a UHF radio like a truckie, but from inside his car.

With four-days’ notice from the time the plan was hatched last week, ACT Policing had prepared for the convoys to arrive from all three of the highways leading into Canberra.

But after holding the line on the lawns of Parliament House, police eventually stepped back and allowed the protesters to walk right up to the building, where they demanded a representative of the government come out to address them.

Parliament does not resume until February 8.

Canberra Convoy
Protesters gathered outside Parliament House chanting a variety of anti-vax and anti-lockdown slogans. Photo: AAP

Humble origins

Australian anti-vaxxers had long talked about marching on Canberra to bring down the government.

But Monday’s convoy emerged when Western Australian doomsday prepper Jim Greer last week decided to bring the Canadian model to Australia.

Mr Greer, a self-described “survivalist”, made headlines at the start of the pandemic for his contingency plan, which involved living in an eight-tonne truck and starting an orchard from his own personal seed bank of more than 2000 specimens.

His decision to call for a convoy caught many other anti-vaxxer and anti-lockdown organisers off-guard. However, when Mr Greer managed to raise more than $150,000 within a few days, they coalesced around him and the momentum he had generated.

Convoy for Freedom Canberra
The Convoy for Freedom has very few trucks when it arrived in Canberra. Photo: AAP

Of the leading figures, most are not truck drivers. One, Sam Harder, worked as a truck driver some years ago.

“We’re not Canada – we’re going to have a lot of trucks, but we’ve got a lot of people with caravans and families and four-wheel drives,” anti-lockdown organiser David Graham, who also goes by Kanga Guru, said while livestreaming from his houseboat on Saturday.

“Don’t expect to see big convoys of trucks – we may, I think we’re going to have a fair few. But this is a people thing, and the people don’t all drive trucks.”

Some of the convoy members were involved in an eight-car accident in NSW. Photo: Facebook

A few of the cars were involved in fender benders and other accidents on their way to Canberra.

Some protesters were even involved in a pile-up involving eight cars on the Hawkesbury River Bridge in NSW on Sunday afternoon.

An influx of cash

Mr Greer has set up a GoFundMe page which garnered more than $150,000 in donations by Monday and solidified the popularity of his spontaneous movement.

Some individuals made donations as large as $5000.

GoFundMe
The organisers of the convoy raised more than $150,000 by the time the first protesters arrived outside Parliament House. Photo: Supplied

However, it’s not clear what the money is for.

The only clue is a claim about gathering receipts in order to reimburse people who joined the convoy.

“Transfers will then be made directly to the people in need,” the fundraiser reads.

“Our lawful team are happy to deal with any discrepancies.”

A spokesperson for GoFundMe confirmed the fundraiser meets the platform’s terms and agreements, and added that there are checks and balances in place to ensure the money goes where organisers claim it will go.

“As part of our verification process, we require full transparency from the organiser about the flow of funds to ensure there’s a clear plan and donors are informed on how the funds will be spent,” they told TND.

Sovereign citizens take over

Dr Ross said the protest marked the takeover of the anti-lockdown movement by so-called sovereign citizens.

Sovereign citizens believe they can exempt themselves from supposedly oppressive government rules, such as taxes and mask and vaccine mandates, by employing their own legal jargon.

“There’s sort of an existing relationship between the anti-vaxxers and the sovereign citizens in Canberra at Old Parliament House,” Dr Ross said.

At simultaneous protests in Sydney and Melbourne, other self-declared sovereign citizens made claims about arresting former NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian and WA Premier Mark McGowan, and called on police to aid them to those ends.

Dr Ross said these protesters are merely role-playing as truck drivers, much like the “fake tradies” who bought hi-vis vests to attend anti-lockdown protests in Melbourne.

The Palmer factor

On Monday morning, United Australia Party MP Craig Kelly announced that he had joined the convoy and would address the crowd in Canberra.

It comes after the party created by mining magnate Clive Palmer recruited several noted anti-vaxxers as Senate candidates for the upcoming federal election.

Mr Kelly’s promised speech didn’t eventuate.

Although one truck driver was spotted waving a yellow United Australia Party T-shirt alongside a Serbian flag and several people brandished Trump merchandise, organisers were explicit that protesters shouldn’t bring any material to do with any political party.

Dr Ross said more and more anti-vaxxers and sovereign citizens had turned against the UAP for “parasitising” off their movement.

“They’r s—ty about Clive Palmer and his yellow T-shirts and banners and all the rallies,” she said.