Canberrans may have given ‘freedom’ protesters the cold shoulder, but their fighting spirit is far from quelled.
While ‘Freedom Convoy to Canberra’ numbers have dwindled since an estimated 10,000 turned out for last Saturday’s protest, those camping at the Cotter Campground say it’s just a lull in the storm.
Locals haven’t exactly welcomed the protesters since they first arrived on 31 January, especially after reports began surfacing that staff in local businesses were facing abuse for asking protesters to wear masks or check in. Protesters retaliated by leaving one-star Google reviews.
Samson is from Melbourne and arrived at sunrise last Saturday (12 February). He is unperturbed by the local reaction.
“I don’t care. Too bad. Tough shit,” he said. “The country is going down the toilet, even if they’re not aware of it.
“What’s happening here is not an isolated thing. People are waking up all over the world.”
Rob Scott, a retired bricklayer from Brisbane, has been with the Convoy from the beginning and is a little less forthright.
“If I go into a shop and they ask me to put a mask on, I just leave. I go to another shop.”
Rob said he had never heard protesters abuse workers and Canberra’s shops were receiving a handsome boost in revenue.
Plans have surfaced for another march on Saturday, beginning at 10 am at Turner Parkland and culminating with a rally at Parliament House. The next major event will be when Parliament returns next month for the Budget. Rob and Samson plan to take part in both.
Samson is part of a group called ‘The Peacemakers’, an American pacifist organisation that takes its name from a section of the Bible, ‘The Beatitudes’, which reads, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God”.
“Whatever way you slice it, you treat people like people,” he said. “Abusing people because they’re wearing a mask is like abusing people because of their race.”
He said COVID-19 was “never about the mandates and vaccines”, but protests happening in Australia, Canada, England, and now New Zealand, have thrown a spanner in the rollout of the ‘New World Order’.
“This is about the enslavement and population reduction of the human race … overseen by Freemason psychopaths.”
He said the design of the Parliamentary Triangle mirrors the “All-seeing eye of God” in the Freemason’s symbol.
“But don’t believe a word I say. Don’t believe a word anyone says. Do your own research because you’re the one who has to live with it.”
Rob is here for those who have lost their jobs because they didn’t want the jab. The final straw was when they started “going on about vaccinating the kids”.
Rob said the Convoy was made up of plenty of others in his shoes – “ordinary people” with legitimate concerns about mandates and the role of government in managing the COVID-19 pandemic. He said this explained the weekend fluctuations in numbers, as those with jobs returned home for the working week.
“Of course, there is a couple of hippie types with different agendas – ‘Legalise some drugs’ or some shit. It’s funny that they’re against the vaccine, but they’ll take drugs.”
Rob said the guy who originally got the wheels rolling on the Convoy was from Western Australia and made the trip in a large white truck emblazoned with ‘Convoy to Canberra’ messaging. Since then, however, former Qantas pilot Graham Hood has assumed leadership.
“He’s the one with a head on his shoulders. He’s not mad like some of them are, yelling ‘kill them all’ and ‘sack them all’ and all that shit. He just wants to get the message over calmly.”
Since the Convoy was moved on from Exhibition Park in Canberra (EPIC) on Tuesday, the faithful few have flooded campgrounds throughout the ACT and beyond. The Cotter was the favoured location until police moved in to clear those who hadn’t paid the booking fee.
Rob said some of these had spilled over to the nearby Caloola Farm at Booth, “where a retired barrister agreed to host the camp on his land”.
Caloola Farm has since published a statement saying it would “allow vulnerable people affected by recent events … to temporarily stay at Caloola Farm free of charge whilst they make preparations to return home”.
Rob plans to head home next week but vows to be back in March.
“This Saturday’s [protest] won’t be as big, but there are people who have gone home to get more people and are coming back again,” he said.
Meanwhile, Samson said he would most likely head back to Victoria after Saturday’s protest. Plenty of others, though, are in it for the long haul.
“People have lost everything; they’re not going anywhere,” he said.
“People are coming for their own different reasons, but the common thread is, ‘We’ve had enough, we want our lives back, we want our freedoms back – it was not yours to take in the first place’.”