Much ado about something

The recession of 2008 saw much disaster for a lot of people. Oil prices in Alberta were dropping, and all the available work in the province was shriveling away like a mollusk caught in the hot sun with no water around.

Companies like Amazon continued to find success, and they were able to expand their wares from books to all kinds of products for people to choose from, beating out the middleman, and beating out any small business that offered similar wares.

Fast forward to 2022 where people have been protesting COVID-19 mandates throughout the world, all because the restrictions and mandates have had a negative impact on people’s livelihoods, whether loss of jobs, or loss of businesses. Restrictions and mandates were put in place to prevent the population from catching the virus and spreading it to vulnerable people.

The mandates has, however, turned into a political fiasco, with politicians and organizations claiming it to be a form of communism, fascism, or any other ism you can muster to make a point; when in fact, the complaints has stemmed from their lives being halted and made an inconvenience, while everyone else has had to put a stopper on their own lives to protect the communities they are a part of. The problem is, essentially, a non-problem, compared to real inconveniences that happen in our country or other countries, like the Indigenous issue around protection of land when oil companies worked unimpeded through territory that wasn’t theirs.

It seems that the effects of the Great Recession are not long gone, and the protesting has grown to take on another form, one that could threaten what it even means to live in a democratic society.

While out shooting photos of a “Calgary Freedom Rally,” which took over parts of downtown Calgary, I met a lawyer that sat back and watched as people passed by. She sat curiously and quietly at a table on 12 Street downtown, with her hair in a messy bun atop her head, sunglasses to thwart the intense sun of the day, and her knapsack behind her and at her feet.

I asked her for her name to be used in a photo, but she refused, citing that it was something she wished to not be associated with due to going for the bar exam; however, while I was talking with another spectator down the road, she caught up with me and said I could use it.

She comes from the Netherlands, and she spoke about the un-democratic notion of the demands of those protesting, and wished for that to never arise; however, she also said that to have a difference of opinion should not be a cause to belittle and cast someone out of society. Differences unite us and bring discourse, she said.

People that protest are still people, even though it appears they are neglecting their neighbours that are affected by COVID-19, or the healthcare workers that work tirelessly on end.

Before I ran into this up-and-coming lawyer, I saw a protestor approach a group of people with masks on 17 Avenue, and they argued back and forth, to the point that the protestor said the one person was faking her disease: the person the protestor claimed was faking it has multiple sclerosis. I doubt all the protestors felt this way about a disease like MS, but it didn’t paint a great picture of their group and cause.

The truckers that organized the Freedom Convoy 2022 made a memorandum of understanding, which stated that overthrowing the liberal government and placing themselves at the helm was a goal, and it’s akin to an authoritative government or coup. They have since retracted that; still, to request a leader to step down after a democratic election took place is un-democratic.

The people have a right to protest, and the police can also do nothing but ensure that that it doesn’t escalate beyond a peaceful protest, which is why they will ride a head on motorcycles or bicycles and halt traffic to let protestors pass, as I learned from Con. Phil Andres, a police officer present at the Calgary Freedom Rally.

Now the Ambassador Bridge has been quelled of the many protestors that were a top the bridge, and it started on the morning of Feb. 12 when police and RCMP moved towards them to remove them. In Alberta, the Coutts border remains blocked and unusable. Kenney put forward the critical infrastructure bill for this very thing and has failed to act on it at all.

A lot of this escalation from the Ambassador bridge, or the protests that have been taking place in Calgary for nearly three years, may not have happened had people showed empathy and compassion for the concerns of many, no matter how delirious the thoughts may sound, it is important to listen and hold space.

The Great Recession saw a lot of people in power continue to grow in wealth, while everyone else has stagnated and saw their own wealth drop; the COVID-19 pandemic has contributed to this as well since many people lost their jobs, business, and their livelihoods while corporations, like Amazon and Apple, found increased wealth. Let’s not forget that COVID-19 has also cost many lives throughout the world.

The loss of life is tragic, but the bitter feelings of being taken for a ride by the wealthy continue to remain. Amazon has accumulated so much wealth while many people suffer, why is that ok?

It puts the protests in a different light, and perhaps it would be a benefit to us to listen and understand their plight and realize that their problems aren’t nothing; after all, we’re all in this together.

Feature Image: A woman watches Calgary Freedom Rally protestors march through the streets of downtown Calgary on Saturday, Feb. 12, 2022. The protestors, organized by Ryan Audette of Calgary Freedom Central, march in support of the Freedom Convoy 2022, a trucker occupation of Ottawa. They march for freedom from any sort of mandate pertaining to COVID-19 and mandatory vaccination. The government of Alberta announced on Feb. 8, 2022, that the restriction exemption program (REP) would no longer be required, and that no further mandates would take place in the province of Alberta. (Photo by Alejandro Melgar/The Press)

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