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Two 'Freedom Convoy' organizers arrested in downtown Ottawa


Two organizers of the "Freedom Convoy" demonstration were arrested Thursday evening, hours after the interim police chief warned action was "imminent' to begin removing protesters from the area around Parliament Hill.

Chris Barber and Tamara Lich were two of several people arrested in downtown Ottawa. Barber was arrested on Albert Street, while video on Twitter showed Lich being arrested downtown. The lawyer for the convoy organizers said on Twitter just after 9 p.m. that Lich is "now in jail."

CTV News has learned Barber and Lich will face charges of mischief and counselling to commit mischief.

Shortly before her arrest, Lich was spotted walking around speaking with people occupying Wellington Street for a 21st day. She was asked if she accepts this is an illegal protest.

"It's not an illegal protest. It's within our Charter of Rights and Freedoms," Lich said.

When asked what her response would be if she got arrested, Lich said, "Hold the line!"

As police began arresting people downtown, the sounds of horn honking got louder throughout the Parliamentary Precinct.

Ottawa police have not said how many people have been arrested.

There was an increased police presence in downtown Ottawa on Thursday, with security fencing and barriers installed around federal buildings and on streets into the downtown core.

Officers are setting up a "secured area" with almost 100 checkpoints to keep convoy protesters out of the downtown core as demonstrations approach a fourth weekend.

Speaking with reporters Thursday afternoon, Ottawa interim police chief Steve Bell issued a direct warning to protesters.

"If you want to leave under your own terms, now is the time to do it."

The Freedom Convoy protests have occupied downtown streets for three weeks, but the number of protesters has greatly increased on weekends. The three-square-kilometre secured area is an effort to prevent a fourth weekend of massive gatherings downtown.

"It will be a very different picture in the downtown core this weekend than it has been for the previous three weekends," Bell told reporters.

The checkpoints will ensure residents can come and go from the area, but unlawful protesters will be turned away, Bell said. The secured area is bordered by Bronson Avenue, Parliament Hill, the Rideau Canal and the Queensway.

Bell said police at the checkpoints will be ensuring that people trying to come downtown for unlawful reasons, such as joining the convoy protest, will be stopped. He said people who live, work or have a legal reason to be in the area will see minimal impact.

“I know that these are measures that our community is not used to,” Bell said. “We’re taking every step we can to minimize the impact on our residents and businesses while keep out those who could do more harm to our community.”

Police are asking people to avoid going downtown if they have no reason to be there, and are warning people to expect delays in and around the secured area.

Bell said police now have the resources, with reinforcements from the RCMP and OPP, to end the occupation, and they're "willing to use lawful tactics to end the unlawful occupation."

"We want people to peacefully leave," he said. "But I can tell you that if they do not peacefully leave, we have plans, strategies and tactics to be able to get them to leave."


Police increased their presence at the convoy starting Friday morning, with groups of officers arriving downtown and handing out new warnings to protesters to leave now.

Crews are also erecting barriers and fencing throughout the downtown core in the latest signs that police action to break up the occupation could be imminent. On Thursday morning, officers could be seen handing out leaflets to protesters in their trucks and in the demonstration 'red zone.'.

"We want to inform you that you will face severe penalties under provincial and federal legislation if you do not cease further unlawful activity and remove your vehicle and/or property immediately from all unlawful protest sites," the new notice said.

It's the second day in a row police have handed out leaflets warning protesters. On Wednesday, police handed out a notice to demonstrators warning them to "leave this area now."

Groups of officers could also be seen gathering at the Chateau Laurier hotel.

The new fencing has been erected on the Parliament Hill side of Wellington Street, right next to where many protesters have been camped out for three weeks. Later Thursday morning, crews also put up fencing outside the Senate building farther east.

The downtown occupation has reached its 21st day. Officials are determined to prevent another weekend like the last three, when the number of protesters swelled in the city's core.

Bell suggested Wednesday night it could take several days to "execute and achieve" its operation to end the ongoing occupation.

"I will commit to council that we have a good, well-resourced plan that we will execute from now moving ahead to end the occupation in this city," Steve Bell said during a dramatic city council meeting in which the city's police board chair was ousted.

Former police chief Peter Sloly resigned earlier this week.

Bell added that while police have a "methodical and well-resourced plan" to take back the downtown core and all occupied spaces in Ottawa, it will take time.

"It's not a quick turnaround. This is an operation that will take time over a number of days to actually execute and achieve," Bell said. 

"Again, my deep desire is people leave our city. Those that are occupying our city, get in your vehicles and go home. We're starting to actually increase pressure on them and encourage them to leave our streets. My absolute hope is that they do that prior to us having to intervene."

Another factor that could complicate any police intervention: the weather. Ottawa is under a winter storm warning with up to 25 millimetres of rain expected, followed by 20 to 30 centimetres of snow by Friday morning.

Protesters showed no signs of leaving after the notices were handed out on Wednesday, and again on Thursday. Live music continued on Wellington Street into the early evening, several protesters could be seen using the hot tub that has been installed at Wellington and O'Connor streets, and children played at a makeshift daycare.

In another sign more enforcement could be imminent, Ottawa bylaw is warning animal owners at the demonstration what will happen to their pets if they are arrested.

"If you are unable to care for your animal as a result of enforcement actions, your animal will be placed into protective care for 8 days, at your cost," they tweeted. After that, if no arrangements are made, the animal "will be considered relinquished."

Bell said he couldn't share operational details with council, but insisted police have worked with the RCMP and OPP to secure the resources needed.

“Our partners have been extremely cooperative and helpful to us in allowing us to amass the resources that we do require to mount such an operation," Bell said.

In the House of Commons on Thursday, Public Safety Minister Marco Mendocino said the Mounties have sent three sets of reinforcements to the Ottawa Police Service, saying the protests have caused "great harm" to local residents.

"Residents are terrorized," he said. "It is absolutely gut-wrenching to see the sense of abandonment and helplessness that they have felt now for weeks."


Ontario Provincial Police say multiple exits are closed along Hwy. 417 through the centre of Ottawa.

The eastbound exits on the Queensway are closed at Rochester, Kent, Metcalfe and Nicholas.

The westbound exits on Hwy. 417 are closed at Bronson, Metcalfe, Nicholas and Vanier Parkway.


As the city approaches the fourth weekend of the "Freedom Convoy" demonstration in downtown Ottawa, the city manager said he's "feeling very confident" for the first time in a while that police can implement a plan.

"Have there been mistakes? Absolutely. Have there been some positive things that have been happening? Absolutely. Has it been perfect? No," Steve Kanellakos said.

"I think they're getting momentum. My sense is resources have come to the table and I'm feeling very confident for the first time in weeks that police are going to be able to take some action and implement the plan."

Ottawa Bylaw officers have issued 600 parking tickets over the past three days in the red zone, and 3,000 parking tickets since the start of the demonstration in downtown Ottawa on Jan. 28.

More than 40 vehicles have been towed from city streets.


A proposed class-action lawsuit on behalf of Centretown residents has drastically expanded. The lawsuit, which originally sought just under $10 million, has been expanded to include some businesses as plaintiffs and is now seeking $306 million from truckers and donors to the 'Freedom Convoy' cause.

Lawyer Paul Champ, who is leading the proposed class action, had a stark message for the truckers who remain in downtown Ottawa on Thursday.

"It's time to go home, and when you get home, I strongly recommend you hire your own lawyer," he told CTV News. "Don't listen anymore to the organizers. ... You've been led down a path that unfortunately is going to cause you some serious financial consequences."

"This is not going to be over when the trucks finally leave, when the last car horn blares."

An injunction against the honking of train and air horns, which was extended on Wednesday for anotehr 60 days, is part of the proposed class action. However, horn-honking could be heard throughout the downtown core Thursday as demonstrators prepared for possible police action.


Several roads remain closed in downtown Ottawa due to the ongoing occupation.

Ottawa City Hall, the underground parking garage and the Rink of Dreams remain closed.

The Ottawa Public Library Main and Rideau branches are closed today.

Ottawa Public Health says the vaccination clinic at the University of Ottawa Minto Sports Complex will be closed today.


The University of Ottawa says in-person activities on the main campus will be suspended until Monday.

"In light of ongoing developments near Parliament Hill, the University has made the decision to move academic and administrative activities online until Monday morning February 21," uOttawa said in a statement on its website.

"This does not impact activities at Roger Guindon and the Lees Campus."

Parking lots on the main campus will be closed and access to some buildings will be restricted. Top Stories

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