Support journalism that lights the way through the climate crisis by June 3

Goal: $100k
$32,749

OTTAWA — Tamara Lich promised that "Freedom Convoy" demonstrators in downtown Ottawa would remain "peaceful but planted" as reports emerged that Prime Minister Minister Justin Trudeau was ready to invoke the Emergencies Act to end the protest, a courtroom heard Tuesday.

"No matter what you do, we will hold the line," Lich, a figurehead in the "Freedom Convoy" movement and a key organizer of the protests, promised in a press conference on Feb. 14, 2022.

A video of the scene was played in an Ottawa courtroom on Tuesday, where the Crown is trying to prove that Lich and her fellow organizer, Chris Barber, exerted control and influence on the protest that unfolded over three weeks in Ottawa and ended with a massive police operation.

The sixth day of the trial marked the first time the court has seen examples appearing to show Lich encouraging protesters to Ottawa and remain there, even as police ordered them to leave.

Both Lich and Barber face charges of mischief, counselling others to commit mischief, intimidation and obstructing police in connection with their role in the "Freedom Convoy" that descended on downtown Ottawa last winter to protest COVID-19 restrictions and the Liberals.

The videos played in court Tuesday were compiled by Ottawa police Sgt. Joanne Pilotte, but are not considered evidence in the trial, which is being heard by a judge alone. Lich and Barber's defence lawyers plan to argue against admitting social media content gathered from the "Freedom Convoy 2022" Facebook page.

The defence has made several arguments over the admissibility of evidence, which has slowed the process.

The online content presented in court shows Lich announced early in the protest that demonstrators would not leave until the government abolished COVID-19 vaccine mandates. Thousands of trucks started rolling into Ottawa on Jan. 28, 2022, blocking streets around Parliament Hill and in the surrounding residential neighbourhoods.

"Our departure will be based on the prime minister doing what is right," Lich said in a recorded press conference on Feb. 3, 2022.

Freedom Convoy organizer Tamara Lich urged protesters to hold the line at all costs. #FreedomConvoy #ottawa #cdnpoli

Nearly two weeks later, Lich posted a video reflecting on the protest and speaking about how she expected to be arrested, though her message to supporters remained much the same.

"I think it's inevitable at this point, but I'll probably be going somewhere tomorrow where I'll be getting three square meals per day, and that's OK," Lich said through tears in a video livestreamed on the Facebook page on Feb. 16, 2022, two days after the Emergencies Act was invoked.

She had tears in her eyes as she watched it play in court on Tuesday.

"If you can come to Ottawa and stand with us, that would be fantastic. And if you can't, pray for us," Lich said in the video.

She signed off by saying: "I am not afraid, and we're going to hold the line. Thank you. I love you guys."

Other videos from the final days of the protest showed Lich repeating the phrase "hold the line." She also said it on Feb. 17, when asked what her message to supporters would be if she were to be arrested.

She was arrested later that day, on the eve of a police operation to clear protesters from the streets. During her arrest, a supporter called out to Lich to "hold the line," as she was led away in handcuffs. She repeated the words back before she was taken to a nearby police cruiser.

A video of Barber's arrest was also played for the court. He was arrested separately from Lich on the same day. In the video, he encouraged the person capturing his arrest to post it to social media "right away."

Crown prosecutor Tim Radcliffe took the court through 212 pages worth of posts and videos from the "Freedom Convoy 2022" Facebook page, including updates that convoy organizers gave to supporters.

Defence lawyers are demanding more information about how the Crown plans to use them to prove their case before they can be considered by the judge.

In one video, Lich expressed support for blockades at the Ambassador Bridge international border crossing between Windsor, Ont., and Detroit, Mich.

"I wish we could take credit for the blockades, but we cannot," Lich said in a video posted to the group's Facebook page on Feb. 14.

"We are aware that Canadians nationwide are feeling inspired by the resolve of truckers in Ottawa."

In a video posted to Facebook on Feb. 12, Barber went for a walk around the blockaded streets of Ottawa and was greeted by fans and supporters asking for photos.

One person who ran into Barber on the street called him a "hero" as protesters chanted "Trudeau has to go" just off camera.

The Crown also replayed videos from Barber's TikTok account, BigRed19755, which have already been entered into evidence during the trial. Radcliffe said he wants to demonstrate for the court that videos were cross-posted between TikTok and Facebook during the protest.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 12, 2023.

Keep reading

Why anyone thinks Canadians would listen to these two and their trucker friends about vaccines and our legally elected government is puzzling. Canadians overwhelmingly chose to be vaccinated and this group of people obviously don't care about the health of fellow citizens. As for overthrowing our government, this is not a tinpot dictatorship, this is Canada, a G7 country.

But it's extremely disconcerting that Tamara Lich and others gained so much traction with some Canadians. It's dangerous.

The dangerous thing is allowing drug companies, motivated by profit alone, to control government policy and make an experimental injection (that had ZERO proof for reducing transmission.

Bollocks.

Medical science has a very good trait: the burden of observation and analysis. Your statement needs backing to match the extensive data gathered by health ministries across the land for millions of vaccinated people that indicates thousands of lives were saved, especially the immune compromised.

Re: Jordan Gilford's comment
Not sure where you got or are getting your information, But the purpose of the vaccines was to reduce morbidity and mortality: sickness and death. It wasn't to "reduce transmission." That's what masking was for.
And both had lots of "proof" for doing what they were supposed to do.
I don't blame the people who got sucked in to disinformation, so much as the education system, that manages to produce adults who can't understand what they read, can't do basic maths, and are, essentially, unable to distinguish garbage on the web from fact.
There are lots of justifiable criticisms to be made about the handling of Covid, but provision of vaccines wasn't one of them.

PS: The science was there to show that fever wasn't an essential symptom of Covid, and that not only symptomatic infection, but also asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic infections were transmissible.
That was the reason for masking in public.
PPS: The US border services at the time wouldn't allow those unvaccinated truckers to enter the US.

In my view, their protest was magnified into a major occupation by one thing -- the weaponization of big trucks. As the result, thousands of downtown Ottawa residents and businesses were shut down and subjected to nearly a month of assault and abuse.

This court case is focused on the leaders of the occupation force. The next case will be likely be a very powerful finale to the whole fiasco. The slap on the wrists Lich and Barber will receive will pale in comparison to the penalties their adoring followers will face as the fines and criminal cases pile up during the upcoming class action trial seeking $300 million in damages from hundreds of individual truckers, many of whom will lose their trucks and their jobs as their trucking business owners get sued while Lich and Barber have their legal costs paid off through fundraising among the Fox News crowd.

Lich and Barber will probably be put on trial again as Ottawa citizens have their retribution for the trucker's collective schoolyard tantrum over their inability to peacefully deal with their disappointment over the results of a fair federal election and their dimwittedness over medical science.

I still cringe seeing mages of transport trailers parked not 40m from the West Block that currently accommodates the House of Commons. One nutbar right wing extremist could have leveled several buildings with a truck trailer full of explosives. I'm sure many police officers saw that possibility too, that is, the ones who weren't sympathetic to the convoy cause.

I hoped the feds would have redesigned the parliamentary precinct to allow the free movement of pedestrians, including legitimate protestors, while making vehicular access less domineering.

Looking at urban design with security in mind, the precinct could be converted into a big beautiful Parliament Square appropriate for gatherings, celebrations and protest on foot. Trafalgar Square and the Louvre Plaza come to mind. Instead, it's back to traffic fumes and road noise on Wellington.

Without big rigs the effort would have amounted to just another big protest. Parliament, the NCC, the city of Ottawa and the security services need to think about that long and hard.

Agreed, a missed opportunity. Sometimes I think that the Liberals deliberately want to provoke and/or maintain confrontational scenarios with conservatives, which has certainly been understandable but now I just want them to pull the rug out, period. It's getting old.
I think the big trucks created the spectacle alright but don't think any of it would have happened like it did without social media either, the newest elephant in the room.
If politics is Hollywood for ugly people then social media is reality TV for wannabes.

Class action suits are civil suits, not criminal charges.
Big rigs are hard on city streets, and shouldn't be allowed there anyway without specific need to be there.
Normally, that's how they behave. Those were bad actors, and possibly because they had no idea at all about how laws get made or changed, much less about what a "peaceful demonstration" looks like.
They didn't have force of numbers for such a silly escapade, and so relied on other methods, I guess.
It looked to me like they were actually attempting insurrection.