Protesters weren't attracted to convoy protest by Lich or Barber, officer tells trial

An Ottawa police officer who spent much of what became the "Freedom Convoy" communicating with protesters says none of the people he spoke with told him they came to the city because of Tamara Lich or Chris Barber.

Acting Sgt. Jordan Blonde was testifying in the criminal trial for the two convoy organizers 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.

He was part of a police liaison team messaging demonstrators that it was time to leave.

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 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.

During his examination in chief, Blonde told the court he encountered "hostile" crowds as he and colleagues tried telling protesters to leave the city, and there was an "influx" of people coming to the downtown core on weekends during the protest.

His direct dealings with Barber were "polite," he said.

Lich and Barber maintain the protests were organized to end COVID-19 mandates and that they consistently worked with police while promoting peace throughout the demonstration.

During Blonde's cross-examination by defence lawyer Lawrence Greenspon, the officer confirmed none of the protesters he interacted with told him they were there because of Lich or Barber.

He also confirmed he never made reference in his notes to protesters using the phrase "hold the line" — the rallying cry used by protesters throughout the demonstration and shouted by Lich as she was led away by police in handcuffs.

Blonde told the court there were "multiple" demonstrations and groups taking part in the protest who were involved in "many different groups and factions," including a group at Confederation Park he says appeared to be taking direction from a "clan mother."

He said he spoke with "unattached" people who were in downtown Ottawa during the protest who he didn't believe were "aligned with anybody" but had no plans to leave the city.

Some people, he said, were there as "singular demonstrators" during the event and there were others who came downtown merely to check out the convoy because of the interest it was garnering.

Blonde said he saw the protest as "one demonstration" and now he refers to the "totality of everything, including this trial, as part of the convoy."

"I don't believe the people I spoke with over three weeks in February 2022 had the same wishes and desires," Blonde said. "They had the same general reasoning for being in the capital city at that time."

He said messaging about leaving the city was given to "everybody."