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‘I saw our city seized,’ store owner tells trial of ‘Freedom Convoy’ organizers

OTTAWA – An Ottawa courtroom heard Friday that town was seized in the course of the “Freedom Convoy” protest final yr, as protesters blocked streets and precipitated public transit to be rerouted away from downtown.

The fourth week of the legal trial for organizers Tamara Lich and Chris Barber has been devoted to listening to from Ottawa residents who lived or labored downtown in the course of the protest.

On Friday the courtroom heard from the particular person accountable for rerouting public transit routes and the proprietor of an upscale boutique in Ottawa’s ByWard Market.

“I noticed our streets, I noticed our metropolis seized and utterly overtaken by these so-called protesters,” Chantal Biro instructed the courtroom.

She mentioned there have been far fewer prospects at her retailer and a dramatic drop in gross sales when hundreds of protesters arrived in Ottawa early final yr to protest COVID-19 public well being restrictions.

The streets close to Biro’s store have been blocked by big-rigs and pickup vans that blared their horns.

She recalled the scent of exhaust fumes from consistently working autos, and marijuana and cigarette smoke seeping into the cease.

She mentioned she wasn’t in a position to get shipments delivered to the shop, however was in a position to drive to her typical parking storage and stroll to the shop seven days every week. She prevented being outdoors due to disagreeable run-ins with a few of the demonstrators, who mocked her for sporting a masks and swore at her when she requested them to maneuver away from the doorway of her enterprise.

Not one of the native witnesses the courtroom heard from this week had any contact with Lich or Barber, who’re each accused of mischief and counselling others to commit mischief, amongst different prices.

The blocked streets additionally impacted public transit routes via the core, OC Transpo’s Natalie Huneault testified Friday.

Huneault is accountable for planning detours to accommodate occasions and demonstrations that disrupt bus service in Ottawa. She instructed the courtroom she redirected 18 routes that normally run via the downtown core.

That meant about 150 downtown bus stops weren’t in use in the course of the demonstration as a result of streets have been blocked and closed.

As an alternative, OC Transpo organized for a rare shuttle bus to select up residents.

Earlier than the convoy arrived, she mentioned the occasion that precipitated the longest transit disruption was Italian Fest, which lasted three days.

The convoy disruptions lasted greater than three weeks.

Barber’s lawyer, Marwa Younes, reminded the courtroom that different issues have led to longer delays, together with building and street closures.

Friday was scheduled to be the ultimate day of the legal trial, however it’s now anticipated to proceed for a number of extra weeks.

There are nonetheless a number of names on the Crown’s checklist of witnesses, together with Zexi Li, the lead plaintiff in a proposed class-action lawsuit in opposition to the organizers on behalf of people that dwell and work in downtown Ottawa.

Biro instructed the courtroom that she has taken steps to hitch that class motion on behalf of her enterprise.

The courtroom additionally expects to listen to from cops who have been accountable for liaising with protesters.

Earlier than courtroom adjourned Friday, the legal professionals mentioned a few of the challenges in scheduling extra time for the trial and the disclosure of proof to the defence earlier than extra cops take the stand.

Barber’s different lawyer, Diane Magas, raised the difficulty of timing. The Supreme Court docket’s Jordan resolution stipulates that any particular person charged with a criminal offense has the correct to be tried inside an inexpensive time-frame, which the courtroom has dominated to be 18 months.

“Jordan may be very a lot a difficulty on this case, right now,” Magas mentioned.

The trial is anticipated to renew Monday.

This report by The Canadian Press was first printed Oct. 13, 2023.

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