Key leaders of the Freedom Convoy were arrested on Thursday by police in Ottawa. Tamara Lich and Chris Barber – prominent organizers of the Canadian trucker protest – were seen being taken into custody by police.
According to the Ottawa Police, Barber was charged with counseling to commit the offense of mischief, counseling to commit the offense of disobey court order (s. 127), and counseling to commit the offense of obstruct police. Lich has been charged with counseling to commit the offense of mischief.
Barber – one of the leaders of the Freedom Convoy and a truck driver from Saskatchewan – was seen on video being arrested in Ottawa.
Video shows Lich being arrested without incident. As she is being taken into custody, Lich tells the other protesters, "Hold the line!"
Both Barber and Lich understood that they were at risk of being arrested for participating in the protest against vaccine mandates.
On Tuesday, Barber said, "We'll follow any direction of law enforcement. We've said it right from day one: If you're confronted by a police officer and the handcuffs come out, put your hands behind your back. Take it like a man. I've never been arrested by police. I've never had handcuffs on … If that comes, I'll be the first guy to get arrested."
An emotional Lich shared a video on Wednesday night, where she acknowledged that she would be taken to jail, but said she was "okay with that."
"I want you to know that I'm not afraid," Lich said in the video posted to social media.
"Just please stay peaceful and take care of each other," Lich tells the other Freedom Convoy protesters. "And know this too will pass."
"And there will be a tomorrow, and we will get through this," Lich said. "The only way this is going to succeed is if we always come from a place of love."
"I pray and I hope that you make your choices from love," she continued. "You have to know that they're trying to provoke us."
Lich – who launched the GoFundMe campaign that raised over $10 million for the Freedom Convoy before the crowdfunding website shut it down – also claimed that her personal bank account had been frozen.
True North journalist Andrew Lawton said, "All of the demonstrators I spoke to yesterday were unfazed by the arrests of organizers Tamara Lich and Chris Barber. 'Hold the line' is still the rallying cry."
"The Ottawa Police Service wants to inform you that under provincial and federal legislation, you will face severe penalties if you do not cease further unlawful activity and remove your vehicle and/or property immediately from all unlawful protest sites," the warning states. "You may be arrested and charged with criminal offenses including but not limited to mischief, and potentially charged with a variety of other non-criminal offenses."
The Ottawa Police threatened demonstrators that their vehicles and property could be seized, their driver's license could be suspended or terminated, and "personal or business bank accounts, including virtual currency, may be subject to examination and restriction." The bulletin also warned that anyone who brings a minor to an "unlawful protest site" faces fines of up to $5,000 and prison sentences of up to five years.
Canada's Department of Justice explains the Emergencies Act:
The Act contains a specific definition of “national emergency” that makes clear how serious a situation needs to be before the Act can be relied upon. A national emergency is an urgent, temporary and critical situation that seriously endangers the health and safety of Canadians or that seriously threatens the ability of the Government of Canada to preserve the sovereignty, security and territorial integrity of Canada. It must be a situation that cannot be effectively dealt with by the provinces and territories, or by any other law of Canada.
On Thursday, the Ottawa Police announced that under the Emergencies Act, "the Unified Command in control of policing in Ottawa has established a Secured Area to ensure that individuals comply with the Emergency Measures Regulations and to ensure designated places (Parliament, Government buildings, critical infrastructure etc) are protected."
Police established checkpoints to verify the identity of anyone attempting to access the secured area. Only people who work or live in the area, "peace officers," and employees of the Canadian government can gain access to the secured area.
“The secured area included almost 100 checkpoints that will have police presence to ensure that those seeking entry to that secure area for unlawful reasons such as joining a protest cannot enter the downtown core,” Ottawa Police Chief Steve Bell said on Thursday during a press conference.
"In the last few days we have been communicating with unlawful protesters," Bell continued. "We have told them they must leave. We want to end this unlawful protest peacefully. We are prepared to employ lawful techniques to remove them from our streets."
Ottawa Police issued a warning on Friday morning, "DEMONSTRATORS: You must leave. You must cease further unlawful activity and immediately remove your vehicle and/or property from all unlawful protest sites. Anyone within the unlawful protest site may be arrested."