Truckers from across Canada are protesting vaccine mandates and other COVID-19 restrictions with a "Freedom Convoy" that began in British Columbia and is making its way to the nation's capital with tens of thousands of supporters.
The convoy departed from Vancouver on Sunday and is headed toward Ottawa in protest of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's vaccine mandate for all truck drivers crossing the border from the United States into Canada. As of Wednesday, the convoy has grown to a seemingly world record-smashing length of 70 km (43 miles), according to Freedom Convoy spokesman Benjamin Dichter.
“It’s 70 km long,” Dichter told the Toronto Sun. “I have seen footage from an airplane. It’s impressive.”
The Guinness world record for longest truck convoy is 7.5 km, which was achieved by a convoy in Egypt in 2020. The Toronto Sun estimated that when the convoy reaches its destination for a planned protest in Ottawa Saturday, it could be as much as 10 times longer than the previous world record. The outlet reported there are as many as 50,000 trucks from western and eastern Canada participating, and even some joining from the United States. There is as yet, no official recognition of the convoy's apparent record-breaking status.
They've been cheered on by thousands of Canadians who have lined up along highways to stand in solidarity with the anti-mandate movement.
Images and video posted to social media over the last several days show large crowds of people enthusiastically cheering the convoy, waving Canadian flags and holding signs showing their support.
One protester, Lou Anne of Ontario, told Canadian journalist Keean Bexte of the Counter Signal that the truckers and their supporters were standing up for their freedoms.
"I am marching because I feel we have a right to choose whether we are vaccinated or unvaccinated. And they have tried to divide us, but they can't divide us anymore because we have become united - both the vaxxed and the unvaxxed," Lou Anne said in a video posted to Twitter.
A GoFundMe account set up to raise money to cover the cost of fuel, food, and lodgings for the protesters has raised over $6.3 million dollars as of Thursday, but the funds won't be available until the donation page organizers show documentation on how the money will be properly dispersed.
A spokeswoman for GoFundMe said this was "part of our standard process to ensure the protection of all donors” and “once a withdrawal plan is provided by the organizer, our team is on standby to safely and quickly deliver the funds.”
The Canadian Trucking Alliance issued a statement over the weekend saying it "strongly disapproves" of protests on roadways, highways, and bridges.
"The vast majority of the Canadian trucking industry is vaccinated with the overall industry vaccination rate among truck drivers closely mirroring that of the general public. Accordingly, most of our nation’s hard-working truck drivers are continuing to move cross-border and domestic freight to ensure our economy continues to function," the organization said on its website.
The group estimates that about 15% of Canadian truckers are not fully vaccinated, which is roughly 16,000 truckers.
Trudeau has also condemned the protesters, calling them a "small fringe minority who are on the way to Ottawa who are holding unacceptable views."
"What we are hearing from some people associated with this convoy is completely unacceptable," he said at a news conference.