OTTAWA — Saturday marked three full weeks in Ottawa for the so-called Freedom Convoy spurred on by those opposed to mandatory vaccines for cross-border truckers.
But in the time truckers and thousands of others have taken over much of downtown, the convoy has also become a rallying point for anti-government forces and broad discontent with COVID-19 protections and restrictions overall.
Now, police operations backed by forces from across the country are clearing the demonstrators and their trucks, and key organizers have begun to appear in court.
Police say their operation is far from over, but here are five developments from Saturday.
1) Infamous sites from the ongoing occupation are now swiftly being replaced with police fencing, including a sound stage across from the Peace Tower that for weeks has featured speeches all day and DJs at night. Police cleared that and several other encampments Saturday as they retook large sections of downtown, but they warned while the occupation itself might be over, their operation is not. Police have not set a end-date for that operation.
2) Tamara Lich, one of the original organizers of the convoy, appeared in court Saturday for a bail hearing. She is proposing that her husband Dwayne act as her surety and he was questioned by lawyers as a result. He told the court he flew to Ottawa in a private jet, at a cost of $5,000, paid by a man named who he doesn’t really know. Court heard together the couple have five adult children, rent their home, and Tamara Lich’s bank accounts have now been frozen, but she’ll be able to return to her job in oil and gas administration when she goes back to Alberta. The judge reserved her decision on bail, and Lich will be back in court on Tuesday.
3) As part of the crackdown on protest organizers, the federal government has imposed additional reporting requirements on banks and other financial institutions to try and cut off the flow of funds. Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino said Saturday that so far, at least 76 accounts have been frozen, representing $3.2 million. One of the convoy organizers, Tom Marazzo, told a press conference Saturday hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash has been donated, which would be on top of millions donated online — funds that are now frozen as part of various court actions or the Emergencies Act.
4) Ottawa police said 170 people in total have been arrested, but not all have necessarily been charged. Interim Ottawa police chief Steve Bell said criminal investigations are also underway related to firearms, but no charges have been laid for those, yet. City of Ottawa officials say 3,600 tickets have also been issued by bylaw officers. Police also said they’ve towed 53 vehicles and suspended 11 commercial vehicle operator registrations.
5) Ottawa police also said they are actively seeking to combat misinformation being circulated about the protests and police actions. They accused people of deliberately doctoring photos to suggest police horses trampled people on Friday, including a woman with a walker. Bell said that is not what happened, and the people knocked down were able to get back up and start protesting again.
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