Monday, February 26, 2024
Protests in Birmingham, Alabama, 1963 Photo: NPR
Guest ContributionsOpinion/Column

1963 Birmingham, 2022 Ottawa

What Freedom Convoy truckers and civil rights protesters had in common

by Donna Laframboise

I’ve previously discussed the similarities between the protests in Birmingham, Alabama in 1963 and the extended Freedom Convoy protest in Canada’s capital in early 2022.

Civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr would have instantly identified with the truckers’ cry for freedom. He himself talked about the “struggle for freedom,” the “freedom movement,” and “the gospel of freedom.”

Screen capture from the Enclyclopedia of Alabama.  Source here.
Screen capture from the Encyclopedia of Alabama. Source here.

Like some Ottawa residents, certain Birmingham residents were hostile to the civil rights movement. They didn’t care about desegregating society. They resented the inconvenience. They wanted the protests to end.

Both the working class truckers and the segregated black population were marginalized, demonized, disparaged by prominent voices with prominent platforms. Like the Canadian government, Birmingham authorities refused to negotiate with the protesters. After the courts outlawed public protest, Martin Luther King Jr led yet another one. He was arrested, charged with “parading without a permit,” and thrown in jail.

If you take a moment to think about things honestly and carefully, the parallels between Justin Trudeau and the officials in charge of 1963 Birmingham are startling.

Agricultural journalist Ian Cumming – who has an adopted daughter from Ethiopia and another adopted daughter from China – also sees these parallels. Late last year, he wrote in a magazine article:

“History doesn’t look kindly on policeman Bull Connor in Birmingham, 1963, turning the fire hoses and dogs on black people protesting for their rights. It’s Martin Luther King’s statute in Washington DC, not Bull Connor.

Nor will it look kindly on horses trampling people, billy clubs cracking ribs and pinch bars smashing transport [truck] windows…”

Prophetic words.

*****

Donna Laframboise writes a daily blog at  ThankYouTruckers.substack.comIt is a first draft of her upcoming book that focuses on interviews with Freedom Convoy truckers. She is a former National Post and Toronto Star columnist, and a former Vice President of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association.