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False reports of woman's death at Ottawa protest example of misinformation, say police

A woman at the heart of a widely spread and false report of a trampling death amid the police operation to clear "Freedom Convoy" protesters from Ottawa streets Friday is very much alive, and Ottawa police say it's an example of the misinformation that has been spread throughout the three-week demonstration.

Police with Toronto's mounted unit moved through crowds Friday near the Chateau Laurier hotel in downtown Ottawa in an attempt to separate protesters from a line of police officers who were slowly advancing. As this happened, videos on social media showed two people falling to the ground as mounted officers rode through.

The incident is now under investigation by the Ontario Special Investigations Unit.

A short time after it happened, a tweet by a Fox News contributor with more than one million followers claimed a woman involved in the incident died in hospital.

This, however, is untrue. Family members said the woman involved suffered a broken clavicle. The false reports of her death were even joked about in an Instagram video, as a voice asks the woman "are you alive?" and she smiles.

"She is alive presently resting in a good bed snoring," the video caption says.

Ottawa police and paramedics also confirmed that no one had died. Paramedic Chief Pierre Poirier said in a statement that 18 people were transported to hospital from the secure zone on Friday with non-life threatening injuries but no fatalities were recorded.

The reporter who sent out the tweet claiming incorrectly that someone died did eventually admit her report was wrong, but millions of people had seen the tweet by then. It had received more than 14,000 retweets and more than 15,000 likes before it was eventually deleted on Saturday.

Interim Ottawa Police Chief Steve Bell told reporters Saturday it was an example of misinformation that they were doing their best to refute.

"When you talk of misinformation, that's specifically one of the demonstrations for us of that," Bell said.

Bell explained that the crowd was growing tense Friday afternoon until members of the mounted unit rode through the crowd to create a separation between police and protesters.

"Almost immediately, there was tweets, there was pictures that had been photoshopped out on social media that indicated people had died as a result of that," Bell said. "What I can indicate is there was two members of the protesters who did collide with the horses. They fell down. They immediately got back up and started to again engage in their protest and demonstration activity."

Bell's "photoshop" claim appears to stem from images purporting to show a real Ottawa police tweet regarding the alleged throwing of a bicycle at one of the horses, but edited to appear as if it included a photo of the aftermath of movement of the mounted unit, where a woman's walker can be seen on the ground. The doctored image was used to cast doubt on police claims that a bicycle was thrown at a horse.

The actual Ottawa Police Service tweet about the alleged bicycle-throwing incident did not include a photo.

Bell did not give specifics about the incident when asked about it on Saturday.

"We'll have to get more specific information on that for you and I'll be able to provide more in the coming days," he said.

Police on Twitter claimed the horse was tripped but unharmed.

Police have made 191 arrests since Friday's operation to remove demonstrators began. A large police presence remains in the downtown core Sunday. Top Stories

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