Australian truckers used social media over the weekend to plan their own “Freedom Convoy” similar to the one in Canada, telling supporters they should “swarm to Canberra to protest mandates and restrictions” on Monday.
A GoFundMe page for the convoy was frozen after raising over $160,000 to support the cause.
Truckies set to swarm to Canberra to protest mandates and restrictions.https://t.co/AiUFhKccrA
— Avi Yemini (@OzraeliAvi) January 29, 2022
Images shared on Telegram of the convoy bound for Canberra today. pic.twitter.com/NKtvIEZ6GI
— Daniel James Dulhunty (@dulhunty) January 31, 2022
Trucking website Big Rigs noted on Sunday that judging by social media posts, the “vast majority” of Australia’s “truckies” are “double-vaxxed and have diligently complied with health orders for the last couple of years.” Only a “small minority” of posts related to the protest appeared to come from professional truck drivers.
Big Rigs quoted Australia’s National Road Freighters Association expressing concerns with how a massive convoy would affect Canberra’s traffic and infrastructure, particularly the service and rest areas dedicated to truckers.
Anti-vaccine mandate protesters are on their way to Australia's capital as part of the 'Canberra Convoy', inspired by recent Canadian rallies, but there's already confusion within the group. #auspol pic.twitter.com/baU4io5XMb
— 10 News First (@10NewsFirst) January 31, 2022
The GoFundMe page for Australia’s convoy was launched by an anonymous individual called “Ironbark Thunderbolt.” According to the page, all of the funds raised would be given to an individual named James Greer, identified by Australia’s ABC News as a “doomsday prepper” who planned to drive a camper to Canberra.
“Money will be withdrawn into James’ account and the team will gather receipts and information from those in need for reimbursement or transfer. Transfers will then be made directly to the people in need. Our lawful team are happy to deal with any discrepancies,” the fundraising page said.
Both media outlets and GoFundMe managers asked for more details about these financial arrangements, but there was no public response from either Greer or “Ironbark Thunderbolt.” According to ABC News, some convoy participants used Facebook to voice “confusion and frustration” with their inability to collect reimbursement for their expenses from the GoFundMe account as promised.
On Monday, GoFundMe froze the $160,000 raised by the campaign until its creator “completes the verification process, and is able to provide documentation to our team about how funds will be distributed.”
A GoFundMe spokesperson later warned that “fundraisers raising money to promote misinformation about vaccines violate GoFundMe’s terms of service and will be removed.”
The demonstration, variously billed as “Millions March Against Mandatory Vaccination” and “The 2022 Official Convoy to Canberra Terra Australis,” produced a crowd of about 800 demonstrators who marched from Canberra’s Federation Mall to Parliament House, where they held a rally, listened to speeches, sang defiant songs, and demanded to speak with a parliamentary representative.
The crowd drew close enough to the Parliament building to make Australian Federal Police nervous, even though the legislature will not be in session until next week. Some attendees told ABC News they planned to camp on the lawn until Parliament was in session.
The Canberra Times described the scene on Monday:
Protesters were seen waving the red ensign flag, flags in support of Donald Trump, the Canadian flag and the Knights Templar flag.
Australian red ensign flags – which is the same as the Australian flag but for the color – has been co-opted by self-described ‘sovereign citizens’. They are a group of people who believe laws do not apply to them.
People also held signs, saying this such as “End The Mandates” and “No Jabs 4 Jobs”. Another said, “if liars’ pants really did catch fire, watching the news would be a lot more entertaining”.
A protest leader named Romeo Georges complained the Australian government “gave you money, they told you ‘we love you, we care about you’ and then they come for your kid.”
“If you want to take [COVID in] your immune system, it’s your right to do that,” Georges said, as quoted by the Canberra Times.
Hundreds of anti-vaxxers have reached the front doors of Parliament House protesting against COVID jabs. Members of the Convoy to Canberra drove thousands of kilometres to the capital. 7NEWS Adelaide at 6pm | https://t.co/8ftPfGh39Y #7NEWS pic.twitter.com/cyBjW3USeI
— 7NEWS Adelaide (@7NewsAdelaide) January 31, 2022
“Unlike the Canadian convoy, there was hardly a truck in sight in Canberra on Monday,” Australia’s New Daily observed, quoting “instigators” who said they “rebranded the movement” when it became clear they would not have the level of support from professional truckers enjoyed by the Canadian convoy.
“We’re not a 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. 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,” explained organizer David Graham.