An Ottawa police officer described encountering "hostile" crowds as he and his colleagues tried telling protesters, who were taking part in what became the Freedom Convoy, to leave the city.
Sgt. Jordan Blonde is testifying on day 23 of a criminal trial for Tamara Lich and Chris Barber, two leaders of the protest who are charged with mischief, counselling others to commit mischief, intimidation and obstructing police for their role in the weeks-long protest in January and February of 2022.
Blonde said the encounters he had while telling protesters to leave is "something I certainly don't want to experience again."
He described trying to tell protesters stationed downtown to vacate the area but being unable to do so because horns started going off.
He recalled one instance where he was at Wellington and Metcalfe streets being inches away from a protester but unable to hear what was being said because of the noise.
A person passes Ottawa police officers in their vehicles on Wellington Street in front of Parliament Hill in January 2023 as demonstrators marked one year since the Freedom Convoy. (Justin Tang/The Canadian Press)
The third member of a police liaison unit testifying in the trial, Blonde said he tried telling protesters they could be arrested if they stayed. But he testified many of them were "adamant about getting arrested" so he instead explained to them what would happen after they were taken into police custody.
Efforts to warn protesters about arrests were ultimately abandoned, he said, for "safety reasons" on Feb. 17.
The next day, police began a massive operation to clear protesters from the city's downtown core.
Crown prosecutors argue Lich and Barber "crossed the line" into criminal behaviour by using the means they employed to achieve their political goals.
They are also trying to demonstrate Lich and Barber had control and influence over the protest in their capacity as leaders, and that the protest was not peaceful.
The trial is expected to resume Oct. 31.