Coutts Three trial: RCMP officer agrees that 'strong disagreement' existed among protesters

The Crown has claimed that the Coutts Three constituted the protest's 'leadership', and exerted control and direction over the protesters.

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RCMP officer Mark Wielgosz testified during Tuesday's proceedings of the Coutts Three trial in Lethbridge, AB, that strong "disagreement" existed amongst the demonstrators at the 2022 Coutts blockade and protest.

The Coutts Three defendants – Marco Van Huigenbos, Alex Van Herk, and George Janzen – are being charged with mischief over $5,000 for their roles in the Coutts demonstration, a protest against governmentally-issued mandates marketed as "public health" measures to reduce COVID-19 transmission.

At some points during the protest, traffic across the Coutts-Sweetgrass Canada-U.S. border crossing was obstructed by protesting motorists.

Wielgosz is the Crown's second witness to testify, after former Coutts mayor Jim Willet. He has been an RCMP officer for over twenty years and worked as a liaison between the federal law enforcement agency and protesters at the Coutts blockade.

Wielgosz agreed with the premise that there was intense disagreement between the Coutts protesters regarding how to proceed with their demonstration and if and how to end it. Video evidence submitted by both the Crown and defence teams captured these disagreements as demonstrators congregated in the Smuggler's Saloon, a location where many of the protesters met to discuss and debate their demonstration.

His testimony was elicited during cross-examination by Ryan Durran, defense counsel for Van Huigenbos. Wielgosz repeatedly stated that one of his primary objectives during the Coutts blockade was to "transition" the demonstration into "a lawful protest". Stopping on a public highway – in this case the AB-4 Highway – was unlawful, he maintained.

He also testified that several "factions", with differing points of view over how to negotiate with law enforcement, composed the broader protest.

The Crown has claimed that the Coutts Three constituted the protest's "leadership", and exerted control and direction over the protesters.

In his previous days' testimony, Wielgosz observed that the protest had no clear, discernible leadership, despite his attempts to identify leaders in order to best execute his RCMP duties as a liaison.

Following completion of the Crown's questioning and defence teams' cross-examination of Wielgosz, RCMP officer Greg Tulloch was sworn in as the Crown's third witness. Tulloch, who has been with the RCMP for over 20 years, also worked at the Coutts protest as an RCMP liaison, working alternating four-to-five-day shifts against Wielgosz's shifts.

"It seemed clear to me to Marco [Van Huigenbos] was that person," Tulloch said in response to being asked by prosecutor Aaron Rankin if he had identified any leaders among the protesters. "The impression I got," he added, was that Van Huigenbos held some leadership role in the context of the protest given Van Huigenbos's role as a "messenger" for the protesters.

Janzen told Rebel News that the difference between Wielgosz and Tulloch in the context of the protest was "like night and day." He recalled that Tulloch was always in full RCMP uniform and more assertive and demanding in his dealings with the protesters. Wielgosz, conversely, was always dressed in plainclothes and more congenial.

The Crown's questioning of Tulloch will continue during Wednesday's proceedings.

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