A brand new chapter of the Public Order Emergency Commission’s public hearings started on Tuesday, because the nationwide inquiry into the federal authorities’s use of the Emergencies Act started listening to straight from “Freedom Convoy” protest organizers.
The first organizer to take the stand was Saskatchewan-based trucker Chris Barber, who obtained vaccinated on account of the federal COVID-19 cross-border vaccine mandate, and shortly after turned one of many authentic convoy organizers.
After spending weeks protesting within the nation’s capital, on Feb. 17 Barber had his financial institution accounts frozen and was arrested on a number of costs. He is predicted to go to trial in Sept. 2023, although as he mentioned on Tuesday: “As far as I do know we have been doing the whole lot throughout the legislation.”
From describing how he felt there was a “energy battle” between varied factions of protesters, to the function TikTok performed in sparking the cross-Canada convoys, and a concession that the horn honking aggravated him, this is some key moments from his testimony on Tuesday.
Asked to stroll the fee via how precisely the “Freedom Convoy” got here collectively in a “sluggish roll” or convoy of transport vehicles to journey throughout Canada to Ottawa, Barber mentioned it was “utterly natural.”
“Everything simply actually fell proper into place… I consider it was about two weeks from the time we began speaking about it, to the time we truly left. It was extraordinarily quick,” he mentioned.
Asked who was main the organizing, Barber mentioned there wasn’t one chief. Though he named Brigitte Belton, Tamara Lich, Pat King, and Canada Unity’s James Bauder as being concerned from the outset.
“It was a bunch of organizers… We had folks in each province step up, we had helpers in each province. It was all, everybody simply got here collectively.”
Barber, who was a part of the Western convoy, later testified how the truckers, coming from totally different instructions, used radios to co-ordinate as they converged on the capital. “Everything was nicely orchestrated.”
‘IT WAS A POWER STRUGGLE’
However, this “natural” coming collectively appeared to expertise some pressure because the protests grew, Barber testified.
Barber informed the fee that he knew that some contributors had come to Ottawa looking for greater than the tip of COVID-19 mandates, and these competing agendas appeared to trigger some friction.
Barber testified that, whereas the “core group of precise truckers” stayed collectively, different organizations arrange camp and it turned a battle for management.
“It was an influence battle numerous the time,” Barber mentioned. He cited the “Taking Back our Freedoms” and “Canada Unity” factions as examples.
Canada Unity was a bunch led by Bauder, who Barber mentioned was concerned from the outset, and tried to advance a “memorandum of understanding” (MOU) to have the Senate and Gov. Gen. Mary Simon be a part of them in forming a committee to order the revocation of COVID-19 restrictions and vaccine mandates. Such a suggestion isn’t possible below present democratic processes.
As the protests waged on and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau refused to fulfill with demonstrators, the MOU developed, seeing some recommend they attempt to type a coalition with opposition events and the involvement of Simon, to unseat the federal government.
Asked what his situation with Canada Unity was, Barber mentioned he did not like their MOU, though he additionally testified he is by no means learn it and has no plans to. Asked whether or not he had issues that it advocated for an undemocratic change of energy in Canada, Barber mentioned he “heard rumours on either side.”
During the protests, Barber and different protesters made efforts to distance themselves from Canada Unity on account of the eye it was getting. After accumulating 320,000 signatures, Canada Unity withdrew the MOU, saying it “does not reflect the spirit and intent of the Freedom Convoy.”
And, after consideration was placed on King’s suggestion that the protests would finish “with bullets,” the fee heard that Barber was concerned in discussions about whether or not King must be despatched dwelling.
However, testimony indicated that Barber had issues concerning the vehicles King introduced with him if he was to be requested to depart.
“Was the priority that if Mr. King was despatched dwelling or requested to not take part, that his supporters would additionally cease taking part?” a fee laywer requested.
“It would have been a very good guess, sure,” Barber responded.
Ultimately, Barber mentioned that he gave King the good thing about the doubt when it got here to the media consideration he was getting, acknowledging that at one level he texted Lich that Barber had “skeletons within the closet, too.” This he mentioned, was in reference to his on-line behaviour.
TROLLING AND THE ROLE OF TIKTOK
Barber informed the fee that he has “been an web troll for a few years,” and that it was frequent for him to be juggling a number of accounts as a result of he would “consistently develop into banned for posting inappropriate issues or issues that went towards group requirements.”
However, Barber testified that he appeared to make use of the convoy to “develop,” and that coming to Ottawa modified his perspective. “It was such a various crowd of individuals… It modified me.”
During his testimony, Barber was requested concerning the function that social media performed in how he obtained concerned within the protests and later used his platform to advertise.
He testified that he first obtained concerned after being approached by Belton, over TikTok, in early January.
“Communication began from there,” he mentioned, describing how pre-convoy he was already utilizing the app to publish “very indignant” content material about COVID-19 restrictions.
Barber additionally testified that, as he continued to make use of his TikTok account via the protests to speak each with fellow protesters and to broadcast extra extensively the scene in Ottawa, his following grew from an estimated 30,000 to 170,000.
Describing the scene as “chaos,” Barber mentioned “the one factor” he might do was put movies out asking for order as a result of they didn’t come to disrupt town.
However, Barber’s self-described efforts to corral the protesters was contradicted when it got here to speaking concerning the horn honking.
HORN HONKING ‘ANNOYED ME’
Barber was additionally requested Tuesday, whether or not he felt the incessant horn honking was a type of peaceable protest.
Here’s what he mentioned:
“I thought of the horn honking to be a type of pleasure, greater than peaceable protest. I’ll be the primary to confess the horns aggravated me. I did the whole lot in my energy to attempt to get the horns to cease. I’ve put out a number of movies frequently saying ‘cease,’ particularly after the courtroom order got here in,” he mentioned.
A convoy lawyer then performed considered one of Barber’s TikTok movies that exhibits him laughing as truck horns are blaring within the background.