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

The fourth week of the felony 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.

OTTAWA — An Ottawa courtroom heard Friday that the 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 felony 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 fully overtaken by these so-called protesters,” Chantal Biro informed the courtroom.

Convoy protest organizers Tamara Lich (left) and Chris Barber stand co-accused of mischief, obstructing police, counselling others to commit mischief and intimidation for their roles in the 2022 convoy protest.
Convoy protest organizers Tamara Lich (left) and Chris Barber stand co-accused of mischief, obstructing police, counselling others to commit mischief and intimidation for his or her roles within the 2022 convoy protest.Photograph by Tony Caldwell/Postmedia, Justin Tang/The Canadian Press

She stated 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 odor of exhaust fumes from continually operating automobiles, and marijuana and cigarette smoke seeping into the cease.

She stated 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 averted being outdoors due to disagreeable run-ins with a few of the demonstrators, who mocked her for carrying 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 expenses.

The blocked streets additionally impacted public transit routes by 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 informed the courtroom she redirected 18 routes that normally run by 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 a substitute, OC Transpo organized for a rare shuttle bus to select up residents.

Earlier than the convoy arrived, she stated 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 development and street closures.

Friday was scheduled to be the ultimate day of the felony 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 record of witnesses, together with Zexi Li, the lead plaintiff in a proposed class-action lawsuit towards the organizers on behalf of people that dwell and work in downtown Ottawa.

Biro informed the courtroom that she has taken steps to affix 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 Courtroom’s Jordan resolution stipulates that any particular person charged with against the law has the best to be tried inside an affordable timeframe, which the courtroom has dominated to be 18 months.

“Jordan may be very a lot a problem on this case, at the moment,” Magas stated.

The trial is predicted to renew Monday.

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