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Downtown Lethbridge traffic disrupted as crowd gathers for Coutts suspects’ court appearance

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Downtown Lethbridge traffic disrupted as crowd gathers for Coutts suspects’ court appearance
There were some traffic disruptions in Lethbridge’s downtown Tuesday, as three men charged in connection to the Coutts border blockade made an appearance in court. Police and sheriffs could be seen blocking off some streets as a large crowd gathered both inside and outside the courthouse. Erik Bay has more. – Oct 4, 2022

A large crowd on-hand outside the Lethbridge courthouse Tuesday morning, with more supporters inside a courtroom, where Alex Van Herk, Gerhard Janzen, and Fort Macleod, Alta. town councillor Marco Van Huigenbos made their first appearance before a judge.

Each man is charged with mischief over $5000 in relation to the Coutts, Alta. border blockade earlier this year.

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Lethbridge police estimated around 200 supporters gathered along the courthouse plaza with some carrying Canada flags.

Alberta sheriffs block off a section of 4th Street South outside the Lethbridge courthouse on Oct. 4, 2022. Erik Bay / Global News

Police issued an advisory around 8:30 a.m., warning of traffic delays and parking challenges in the downtown area due to an influx of vehicles.

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LPS, sheriffs and RCMP managed the situation, including blocking access to the portion of 4th Street South that runs in front of the courthouse.

Police said the blockades were to prevent tractor trailers and other heavy equipment from leaving truck routes and entering the downtown core.

“Lethbridge Police, Alberta Sheriffs and RCMP worked in partnership to maintain public safety while respecting the democratic right to peaceful assembly during a gathering of approximately 200 people at the Lethbridge Courthouse Tuesday morning,” LPS said in a statement provided by a spokesperson. “The assembly was in relation to court appearances by three people charged in connection with the Coutts blockade/protest earlier this year.”

Alberta sheriff vehicles block a downtown Lethbridge street on Oct. 4, 2022. Erik Bay / Global News

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Meanwhile, inside the courtroom the proceedings were adjourned for one month at the request of the crown.

Lawyers for all three men agreed with the delay, saying they need time to review the details of the cases.

One also requested the crown provide an estimated time for trial at the next appearance, indicating the three accused want the trial to be scheduled as quickly as possible.

The three men will return to court on Nov. 4.

Shortly after the court proceedings ended, at around 11 a.m., police issued a release saying the traffic congestion was clearing and no further delays were expected.

LPS added there were no incidents related to the large gathering.

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