Two of the organizers behind last month’s “Freedom Convoy” that occupied downtown Ottawa for weeks are facing several new criminal charges.
Tamara Lich and Christopher Barber have been jointly charged with one count each of mischief, intimidation, obstructing a highway and obstructing a police officer, as well as five counts of counselling others to commit those same charges.
The two organizers, who were among the most prominent representatives of the protest, were in court on Thursday to learn of the new charges.
Both had previously been charged with mischief and counselling to commit mischief after they were arrested on Feb. 17, a day before police moved in to clear demonstrators and their trucks from the streets surrounding Parliament.
Barber had also been previously charged with counselling to disobey a court order and counselling to obstruct police.
Lich and Barber have both been released on bail, although Lich’s release only came after she appealed an earlier decision to deny her bail.
Lawyers representing Lich on Friday filed an appeal of her bail conditions, which include restrictions on social media use.
The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms, which is helping with the challenge, said the conditions violate her guarantees of free expression, association and peaceful assembly.
The centre said the ban on Lich’s expression on social media, including comment on COVID-19 health measures, lacks a “rational connection” to a risk to public safety or committing further offences.
Barber is due to make his next court appearance on April 19. The next court date for Lich is not yet confirmed.
Another key figure who helped organize the protest, Patrick King, is also facing additional charges after appearing in court on Thursday.
King and another man, Tyson Billings, are now facing 10 charges each, including two counts each of intimidation and obstructing police and one count each of mischief, counselling to commit mischief, counselling to intimidate, counselling to obstruct police, disobeying a court order and counselling to disobey a court order.
Billings appeared in court again on Friday, while King’s next court date is yet to be confirmed.
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The “Freedom Convoy” brought downtown Ottawa to a halt for three weeks last month as demonstrators protested everything from COVID-19 vaccine mandates to the Liberal government, with some calling for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s resignation.
The refusal of protesters to leave led Trudeau to invoke the Emergencies Act, which had never before been used and which granted a range of additional powers that police have billed as “crucial” to allowing them to prohibit pedestrian and vehicle access to a secure zone.
The head of the Ontario Provincial Police revealed to a House of Commons committee on Thursday that the convoy was deemed a national security threat a week before the Emergencies Act was invoked on Feb. 14. It would be another week before police moved in to clear the protests.
Ottawa police handed out hundreds of municipal bylaw tickets to truckers who blocked roads downtown and incessantly honked their horns. Some of the protesters are also facing criminal charges for confrontations with police and defacement of property.
–With files from Global’s Amanda Connolly and the Canadian Press