During the trial of Tamara Lich and Chris Barber, an Ottawa Police officer, Isabelle Cyr, testified that her attempts to reduce the impact of the Freedom Convoy in Ottawa were denied by her superiors. Lich and Barber are facing charges of mischief, intimidation, obstruction of police, and counseling others to commit mischief, intimidation, and obstruction of police as organizers of the Freedom Convoy.
Cyr, who worked with a Police Liaison Team (PLT) that had daily communication with the Freedom Convoy organizers, stated that she was denied permission by Inspector Russell Lucas, who oversaw local law enforcement’s handling of the Convoy, to arrange a lessening of the demonstration’s “footprint” in Ottawa. Lucas himself had testified earlier in the trial, saying that his discretion to negotiate with the Convoy’s organizers was taken away when he received a directive stating that “not one inch” should be conceded to the demonstrators.
The court heard that Lucas’s ability to reduce the Convoy’s “footprint” and minimize the negative impacts of the protest on Ottawa residents was hindered by his superiors. He did not know who issued the “not one inch” directive or where it originated in the chain of command. Lich’s lead defense attorney, Lawrence Greenspon, presented a message from a PLT officer in the Convoy’s encrypted Signal chat, highlighting the lack of authority for the PLT to make decisions and the resulting failure to address the protesters’ concerns.
Greenspon emphasized that Cyr’s testimony showed that PLT officers, who were genuinely trying to mitigate the negative consequences of the Convoy on residents, were prevented from doing so by higher-ranking officials in the government’s chain of command.
The Freedom Convoy, which consisted of truckers protesting COVID-19 mandates and vaccine requirements, caused significant disruptions in Ottawa during its duration. The organizers have argued that their actions were a form of peaceful protest and that their rights to freedom of expression and assembly were being unjustly curtailed.
The trial continues, and Lich and Barber maintain their innocence while fighting the charges against them. The case has garnered significant attention and support, with crowdfunding efforts launched to raise funds for their legal defense. The Democracy Fund, a Canadian charity, has been assisting Lich by crowdfunding her legal bills, which amount to $300,000. Lich, an ordinary mom and grandma from Medicine Hat, Alberta, cannot afford the cost of expert legal representation, but she has been fortunate to have Lawrence Greenspon, one of Ottawa’s top lawyers, on her side.
The trial raises important questions about the balance between public protests and law enforcement’s response. It highlights the challenges faced by both sides in managing protests in a way that ensures public safety while respecting individuals’ rights to express their opinions and concerns. As the trial continues, it will provide further insight into the actions and decisions of law enforcement and the freedom of expression rights of the organizers of the Freedom Convoy.