Freedom Convoy organizer Tamara Lich repeatedly urged protesters to remain peaceful a day before her arrest, while asking them to continue to “hold the line,” the court heard on the sixth day of the criminal trial of the protest’s two key organizers.
“Just please stay peaceful. And please take care of each other and know that this too shall pass,” Ms. Lich told protesters in a video live-streamed on Facebook on Feb. 16, a day before she was arrested in downtown Ottawa.
“Tomorrow is a new day, and I’m ready. I am not afraid, and we’re gonna hold the line.”
Ms. Lich and Chris Barber, two of the most well-known organizers of the Freedom Convoy protest that saw hundreds of vehicles crowd the streets of Ottawa to protest vaccine mandates and passports, are being charged with counselling to commit mischief, counselling to disobey a court order, counselling to obstruct police, and mischief that interferes with the use and enjoyment of property.
Crown prosecutors showed a series of videos of Ms. Lich and Mr. Barber taken during the three-week protest, attempting to show that the pair exerted influence on how the protest unfolded. The demonstration came to an end after the federal government invoked the Emergencies Act for the first time on Feb. 14, 2022, giving Ottawa greater powers to end the protest, including the ability to ban travel to specified zones and to freeze protesters’ bank accounts.
Crown prosecutor Tim Radcliffe took the court through 212 pages of posts and videos from the “Freedom Convoy 2022” Facebook page. In the video posted on Feb. 17, a day before a sophisticated police action began to clear out the demonstration, a teary-eyed Ms. Lich encouraged protesters to continue to stay unified and express love.
She also encouraged them to show respect to reporters, police officers, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. “I know it’s frustrating, but we still have to have love in our hearts.”
In the video, Ms. Lich acknowledged that she would likely be arrested the next day. Ms. Lich also said that if people could “come to Ottawa and stand with us, that would be fantastic,” but said if not, they could pray.
Ms. Lich had tears in her eyes as she watched the footage in court on Sept. 12.
Stay ‘Peaceful but Planted’
In other videos shown to the court, Ms. Lich repeated the message to “hold the line.” That phrase was repeatedly echoed by protesters as police officers cleared them from Ottawa’s downtown core toward the end of the demonstration.
In a video captured on Feb. 17, when asked what her message would be if she were arrested, she said to “hold the line.” When she was arrested later that night, she repeated the words as she was being led away by police officers in handcuffs.
At a press conference on Feb. 14, the same day the federal government invoked the Emergencies Act, Ms. Lich said the protesters would “remain peaceful but planted on Parliament Hill” until the vaccine mandates were lifted.
“No matter what you do, we will hold the line. There are no threats that will frighten us, we will hold the line,” Ms. Lich said in a message specifically addressed to the prime minister. She added that the protesters should not “give in to fear and threats.”
“Your courage has already exceeded all of our expectations and inspired an international movement,” Ms. Lich told the protesters.
She also said the protest organizers could not take credit for the trucker blockade at the Canada-U.S. border in Windsor, Ontario, although they “wish we could.”
“We of course encourage all demonstrators across the country to be peaceful, just like we have been and will continue to be here in Ottawa,” Ms. Lich said. “We’re all keeping an eye on the protests and blockades happening nationwide. And insofar as we are concerned, it only strengthens our demonstrators’ resolve.”
The videos played in court on Sept. 12 are not considered evidence in the trial, which is being heard by a judge alone and not a jury. Ms. Lich’s and Mr. Barber’s lawyers have been requesting more information on how the Crown plans to use the posts and videos from the “Freedom Convoy 2022” Facebook page to prove their case before they can be considered by Justice Heather Perkins-McVey.
The trial is scheduled to last 16 days.
The Canadian Press contributed to this report.