It was a scene of chaos and confusion in the upper echelons of the police department and local government when a convoy of big trucks and protesters arrived in Ottawa to demand an end to pandemic restrictions last winter .
That’s the picture witnesses painted during the first two weeks of hearings at the Public Order Emergency Commission, which is investigating the federal government’s use of the Emergencies Act. in February to end the week-long protest.
The inquest also heard of the plight of residents in the capital’s city centre, who recounted their suffering as lawlessness and the blaring of 24-hour truck horns gripped their community, and the businesses that were forced to close.
But so far the inquiry has heard nothing from the protesters themselves.
Witnesses are expected to appear this week who can shed some light on the design of the “Freedom Convoy” movement, which by all accounts to date appears to have been started by two truck drivers and a TikTok video, and how it came about. is intensified over time.
Several of the protest organizers on the witness list face criminal charges related to their involvement in the protest, including Tamara Lich and Pat King.
Keith Wilson, a lawyer representing a number of key convoy organizers, said before the inquiry that his clients were eager to talk about what was going on and why they were in Ottawa in the first place.
“They are hoping it will become apparent, which many already know, that there was no need to invoke the Emergency Measures Act,” he said.
Wilson has since been added to the witness list himself.
Protesters began arriving in Ottawa on January 28 to express their anger and opposition to the federal government and COVID-19 related restrictions, including vaccination mandates.
The protest quickly evolved into what police called a “sitdown”, with protesters blocking traffic and setting up camps on city streets. They honked horns, shouted cries of “freedom” and refused to leave until their demands were met.
The protesters inspired similar demonstrations elsewhere in the country, including a six-day blockade of the Canada-US border crossing on the Ambassador Bridge in Windsor, Ontario.
On February 14, the federal government invoked the Emergencies Act to grant new powers to police, blockade sections of the city and force towing companies to remove vehicles. Powers have also been granted to banks and other financial services companies to freeze the funds of protest organizers.
On February 18, a massive police operation was underway to drive protesters off the streets of Ottawa.
Testimony from the vantage point of the convoy should begin with two of the first organizers to get involved in planning the protest: Chris Barber and Brigitte Belton.
Barber was co-charged with Tamara Lich with criminal mischief, obstructing police, and counseling others to commit mischief and intimidation for his actions during the protest.
This report from The Canadian Press was first published on October 30, 2022.
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