Scope of convoy protest ‘exceeded expectations,’ co-organizers’ trial hears

Scope of convoy protest ‘exceeded expectations,’ co-organizers’ trial hears

A senior Ottawa police officer who helped oversee operational plans within the early days of what grew to become generally known as the “Freedom Convoy” says the variety of individuals and autos within the downtown core “exceeded expectations.”

Insp. Russell Lucas, the incident commander managing the convoy’s impacts, made these remarks whereas testifying on the second day of the felony trial for 2 of the principle convoy organizers. 

The fees towards Tamara Lich and Chris Barber embrace mischief, counselling others to commit mischief, intimidation and obstructing police. 

The second day of their trial noticed a smaller group of supporters within the courtroom than on Tuesday.

Lucas advised courtroom that within the early days of the protests — which began on the tail finish of January 2022 — the main target was on holding public order and mitigating the influence on the group.

Protesters had been accredited to park on Wellington Avenue in entrance of Parliament, he mentioned, as a result of “that’s the place they needed to be, that’s the epicentre.” 

Whereas the demonstration was initially anticipated to final only one weekend, Lucas mentioned police knew a core group of protesters might stay.

However they quickly realized the scale and scope of the convoy protests was bigger than anticipated. 

Police had initially predicted about 100 autos would arrive from every province, however Lucas mentioned numbers “effectively exceeded that.” Roughly 5,000 autos had congested the downtown core by the tip of the protest’s first weekend, he mentioned, with the variety of protesters swelling to round 10,000 individuals.

Tamara Lich makes her approach again to the Ottawa Courthouse following a quick break on the primary day of her trial on Tuesday. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

Sources ‘stretched so skinny’

Hundreds of individuals, big-rig vehicles and personal autos ended up gridlocking Ottawa for a number of weeks to protest COVID-19 public well being measures and the federal Liberal authorities, which finally used the Emergencies Act to finish the demonstrations.

Lucas advised courtroom that as numbers swelled, the drive’s plans had been altering by the hour and sources had been “stretched so skinny”.

Though about two-thirds of the protesters left after the primary weekend, the footprint of the remaining autos was sprawled throughout the downtown core, Lucas mentioned.

Lucas was the incident commander managing the convoy’s impacts, advised the courtroom because the convoy lingered it grew to become extra “risky”, with officers had been extra more likely to be “swarmed” by crowds in the event that they tried to take enforcement motion.

He mentioned he accredited a plan to permit extra autos onto Wellington to shrink that footprint and supply close by neighbourhoods some aid, whereas concentrating police enforcement in a single location.

However that plan was rejected by then-chief Peter Sloly, Lucas testified, saying he was advised by superior officers that “we’re not giving them one inch.”

A man in a plaid shirt and glasses walks toward a courthouse on a summer morning.
Chris Barber, centre, arrives for his trial on the Ottawa Courthouse on Tuesday. (Justin Tang/The Canadian Press)

The inspector mentioned that rejecting the accredited plan undermined the work of liaison officers who’d negotiated it with the protesters.

It additionally made it tougher for police to hold out enforcement, Lucas mentioned, given the big geographic space protesters continued to occupy.

Throughout cross-examination from Lich’s lawyer Lawrence Greenspon, Lucas mentioned he didn’t go to the protests himself or have any contact with the 2 leaders on trial.

Lucas is the second Crown witness known as within the highly-anticipated trial, which is anticipated to final about 16 days. 

The Crown’s case will hinge much less on the actions of Lich and Barber and extra on whether or not these actions had been felony. 

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