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Canadian truckers protesting vaccine mandates have paralyzed Ottawa, blocking streets throughout the Canadian capital and setting up tents and other rough shelters. The truckers have also blocked key US border crossings across states such as Michigan and Montana. The truckers share a number of characteristics with right-wing populists in the United States: they are furious with COVID-19 restrictions, but also with the liberalism of their head of state. Conservatives in the United States have heaped praise on the protesters and their cause. Former President Donald Trump went as far as to call Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau a “far-left lunatic.” 

The truckers initially took donations through GoFundMe, netting nearly $8 million (US dollars) before the site shut the effort down. But that didn’t stop the protesters’ fundraising. The movement gathered steam with conservative activists in the United States. The truckers moved their fundraising to the Christian site GiveSendGo and promptly raised $4 million. “U.S. political figures and content creators … really gave [the protesters] a boost that made it global,” said Ciaran O’Connor, an Institute for Strategic Dialogue analyst who works on tracking extremist groups. “Donations from abroad are quite a common part of any large crowdfunding campaign,” he added. “But the scale of this one is unprecedented.”

Franklin Graham asked his followers to pray for the truckers protesting in Canada.

On Twitter, evangelist Franklin Graham asked his followers to pray for the truckers protesting in Canada. He said the issue was about freedom. “Pray for our neighbors to the north,” Graham wrote on the social media site. “Freedom is precious. The issue isn’t primarily masks or vaccines—the issue is FREEDOM, the freedom to make our own choices. These truckers are a modern-day version of Paul Revere, riding against oppression.”

Experts who study extremism suggest that the trucker protesters have connections to white nationalist and xenophobic groups.  “We’re saying that this is a far-right convoy because — from day one — the organizers themselves are part of the far-right movement,” said Evan Balgord, executive director of the Canadian Anti-Hate Network. “They have previously been involved in far-right movements and have made Islamophobic comments in the past.”

This could help illuminate why the Canadian trucker protesters are getting a big funding assist from the right in the United States and is now fundraising on a Christian site. The religious right in the United States has been associated with higher levels of xenophobia and white nationalism. Their support for the Canadian trucker protest may suggest that they view their cause as not just a national one. 

The Canadian protest could also set the stage for a similar event in the United States. A Department of Homeland Security memo reportedly stated that a similar trucker protest in the US could impact the Super Bowl or the State of the Union address. And just as American conservatives helped fund trucker protesters in Ottawa, Canadian conservatives may return the favor, sending funds in support of a protest in Washington, D.C.

Marcus Johnson is a political commentator and a political science Ph.D. candidate at American University. His primary research focus is the impact of political institutions on the racial wealth gap.

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