Police in Ottawa Have Started Arresting ‘Freedom Convoy’ Leaders

Tamara Lich and Chris Barber were taken into custody Thursday night, as police stepped up efforts to dismantle the anti-vax protests that have gridlocked Ottawa.

Two of the main leaders of the so-called “freedom convoy” protest in Ottawa were charged on Friday morning  as police kicked off an effort to break up the anti-vax encampment that has left Canada’s capital city gridlocked for weeks.

Images shared on social media showed Chris Barber, a truck driver from Saskatchewan, being taken into custody on Thursday afternoon, and hours later Tamara Lich, who has spearheaded the hugely successful crowdfunding campaign for the protest, was detained by police officers.

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On Friday morning the Ottawa Police Service announced that both had been charged and would appear in court on Friday. 

Barber, 46, faces three charges, including mischief, disobeying a court order, and obstructing police. Lich, 49, is only charged with mischief. In Canada, mischief is a criminal offense that is used in relation to the reckless destruction of another person's property, or the interference with another person's property. In the most serious cases, those found guilty can be punished with up to 10 years in prison.

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Lich and Barber had said that they and other protesters would remain in the city until the vaccine mandates the group is fighting against were lifted. 

But in recent days moves to end the blockade have ramped up, with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau invoking the Emergencies Act, which gives federal and provincial governments more tools to force the freedom convoy to disband. The arrests of Barber and Lich appear to be the start of sustained action from the authorities to end the protest in the coming days.

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On Friday morning, the police warned residents that there would be an increased police presence in the downtown area.

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Lich, a former fitness instructor, has become the most visible face of the movement. A video of her arrest on Thursday night was posted on the “Freedom Convoy” Facebook page, showing Lich peacefully putting her hands behind her back when a police officer informs her she is being taken into custody.

Two people with Lich when she was arrested also demanded to be taken into custody claiming they are just as responsible for the convoy as Lich. “Officer, you gotta take me too,” one of the individuals said.

In an emotionally charged video posted on the same Facebook page hours earlier, Lich appeared to accept her fate.

“There’s a pretty good chance, well I think it’s inevitable at this point, I will probably be going somewhere tomorrow where I will be getting three square meals a day, and that’s OK. I’m OK with that. I want you to know that I am not afraid.”

Lich also called on her supporters to “be kind and show love” to journalists and police officers attending the protests, even when they don’t agree with what they are doing. “Please pray for them and forgive them for they know not what they do—at least I have to believe that,” an emotional Lich said.

This stands in stark contrast to the protesters actions in recent weeks. As well as displaying swastikas and confederate flags and shouting racial slurs, the police in Ottawa have said they are investigating over 200 incidents of possible hate crimes perpetrated by the protesters in recent weeks

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Dagny Pawlak, a spokesperson for the protest, called Lich’s arrest “absolutely baseless and a disgrace to any liberal democracy, although not a surprise.”

A video posted on Twitter shows two Owatta police officers detaining Barber on Thursday afternoon. Barber is seen playing up to the camera and telling the person recording the video to “call my wife. Put this on social media straight away.”

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The arrests come hours after city, state, and federal forces were reported gathering at locations around Ottawa for what is expected to be a coordinated effort to dismantle the convoy that is expected to begin on Friday.

Earlier this week, Ottawa Police Chief Peter Sloly resigned after facing criticism for not doing enough to dismantle the anti-vax protest that has clogged Ottawa’s downtown core for three weeks. 

His replacement however says that’s all about to change.

“The action is imminent,” Steve Bell, interim chief of the Ottawa Police Service, said Thursday afternoon, adding that the police were committed to ending the “unlawful occupation.”

On Telegram the organizers of the U.S. Freedom Convoy, which is slated to kick off in California next week, used the images of Lich being arrested as a way to stoke more anger among supporters.

“Now it's the perfect time to start the USA CONVOY! American truckers we are coming,” one of the main Telegram channels helping promote the U.S. convoy, wrote.

Tagged:

Ottawa, Arrests, anti-vax, Canadian News, worldnews, trucker convoy, Chris Barber, Tamara Lich

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