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Ottawa 'Freedom Convoy' protests were 'unsafe and chaotic', inquiry finds


Organizers of the "Freedom Convoy" have long contended that the three-week protest in downtown Ottawa was a peaceful celebration, and not a forceful occupation.

But in his report on the federal government's invocation of the Emergencies Act to end the occupation, Justice Paul Rouleau decidedly rejects that version of events.

"I do not accept the organizers' description of the protests in Ottawa as lawful, calm, peaceful or something resembling a celebration," Rouleau said in his report.

"That may have been true at certain times and in isolated areas. It also may be the case that things that protesters saw as celebratory, such as horn honking, drinking, and dancing in the streets, were experienced by Ottawa residents as intimidating or harassing."

"Either way, the bigger picture reveals that the situation in Ottawa was unsafe and chaotic."

Rouleau acknowledged many participants wanted to maintain a peaceful protest, recognizing that violence would discredit the movement.

"These efforts, however, were not successful," he said.

The report said that protests are messy, and some level of unlawfulness can be expected. The protests weren't an "occupation" that first weekend; the protesters had effectively been invited to park their trucks downtown.

"By Monday, however, when they refused to leave, the invitation was clearly revoked."

The lack of safety was particularly apparent with the blockage of emergency lanes on Kent Street, which was entirely blocked by parked trucks, the report said.

"In the event of a fire in one of the large apartment buildings along that street there was potential for a real catastrophe," Rouleau said. "Propane tanks, jerry cans filled with fuel, fireworks, and other safety hazards that were being stored in the downtown core also posed serious risks."

He also said he accepted the evidence that many participants took advantage of a lack of policing supervision to disrupt and intimidate residents.

And he said protest leaders, such as Chris Barber and Tamara Lich, were clearly aware of harassment intimidation and other non-peaceful conduct by protesters.

Although the size of the protests made it difficult for the organizers to control the message and the conduct of those involved, "organizers did not do all they could to limit the amount of violence and harassment."

"Mr. Barber and Ms. Lich both testified that they were not in favour of the constant honking, but they took no meaningful steps to stop it," he wrote.

The report also notes both Barber and Lich opposed Centretown resident Zexi Li's injunction that made it unlawful to honk horns after certain hours in the downtown core.

He also noted that Barber and Pat King, another protest leader, "posted videos and other content where they appeared gleeful about the harm being inflicted on downtown residents."

"At the hearings themselves, the organizers displayed a lack of empathy for the residents of Ottawa, even with the benefit of hindsight."

Barber and Lich are scheduled to go on trial for mischief, counselling mischief and other charges in September. King is also facing charges in relation to role in the protests. Top Stories

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