What was supposed to be a routine trip to the nearest grocery store for the week turned out to be tragic for one Coutts family.
On Wednesday, protesters had continued to illegally block Highway 4 at the Canada-U.S. border crossing, which local resident Tara Schamber was well aware of. In fact, other than being a “pain in the butt” to get around town and having to drive through ditches — the protest seemed quite peaceful to her.
Many are protesting the different mandates that have been introduced by the provincial government as a tool to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic. Others are protesting the vaccine mandate for cross-border truckers, some showing support for the trucker convoy in Ottawa.
Schamber told Global News she and her husband had “hunkered down” for the weekend as she had a feeling the protesters weren’t going to be moving for a while.
However, come Tuesday, groceries were needed, so they packed up their vehicle and planned to head north to Milk River. Schamber said they were met by “a wall” of RCMP vehicles at the initial blockade near the Coutts side of things, but police let them through since they were locals and on the promise to not partake or stop within the protest.
“Within minutes of being past that blockade, a wave of vehicles were coming straight at us,” Schamber said after explaining they were travelling on the northbound lanes of the highway and at a slow speed due to the heavy congestion.
“We had nowhere to go… we got hit and it was terrifying, absolutely terrifying.”
That’s when things took a turn for the worse. Schamber said her husband got out of the vehicle — while other vehicles kept driving past — to survey the damage and get the information from the person who hit their vehicle for a police report. At this time, she said she called the police.
“One of the people in the vehicle came at him and was like yelling and pushed him a couple of times, saying it was ‘our fault,’ (and) ‘we hit them!’ … We were going the right way on the road — barely even moving — terrified at the vehicles coming at us, but yet, they’re going to blame us that it was our fault?” Schamber explained.
While still on the phone with police, Schamber said a woman came up and punched her husband, then the truck sped off without exchanging any information.
He since had to get stitches and has a fat lip, but added they’re both still shaken up by the incident.
“All we were doing was going to get groceries,” she said.
“And they’re trying to say it’s a peaceful protest? Not very peaceful to me.”
Schamber said videos she watched later in the afternoon point to the swarm of vehicles coming at them as the ones who broke the RCMP barricade.
She now doesn’t have a vehicle to use to get to work in Lethbridge until insurance takes over the claim, and even then — with it being a hit-and-run — it could take some time. They’re also having to rely on family members to bring them necessities.
On Wednesday morning, RCMP did confirm there was a collision between two vehicles after protesters had driven past the police barricades. They did not provide details.
After the interview was finished with Global News, Schamber said an organizer of the protest had messaged her on Facebook and said: “I would like to make this right and cover ALL repair costs because this is not what we want.”
As for now, Schamber hopes the blockade will come to an end as she says it’s gone on for too long and most, if not all, the residents of Coutts want to get their small town back to the way it quietly was.