"Not one inch" should be conceded to the Freedom Convoy in any negotiation with the Ottawa Police Service (OPS), Inspector Russell Lucas, an incident commander with the OPS, said during his testimony on Wednesday in the trial of Chris Barber and Tamara Lich in the Ottawa Courthouse.
Lucas said the directive against making any concessions to the Freedom Convoy eroded his discretion to liaise with the demonstrators in his capacity as incident commander.
This restriction of his freedom to act, he added, reduced his ability to pursue negotiations with the protesters in pursuit of what he said was his top priority — "public safety".
The "not-one-inch" directive – as it came to be referred to by Barber's and Lich's lawyers – was "an executive decision that was made beyond me," Lucas said. He added that he "complied" with the directive.
Lucas speculated that the "not-one-inch" directive came from the Ottawa Police chief's office, which at the time was held by former OPS Chief of Police Peter Sloly.
He did not speculate upon the OPS's involvement or coordination with Jim Watson – Ottawa's mayor at the time – or the Prime Minister's office in its response to the Freedom Convoy.
During the Freedom Convoy, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and then-Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson regularly made statements about their stated efforts to use authorities to end the demonstrations near Parliament Hill and in Ottawa's downtown core.
Lucas said "it would have been my preference" to reduce the Freedom Convoy's "footprint" by increasing its consolidation on and around Wellington Street adjacent to and near Parliament, but he was unable to pursue this end via negotiations with the demonstrators due to the "not one inch" directive from those above him in the chain of command.
A consolidation of the demonstration "would have mitigated a substantial amount of risk" to "public safety," Lucas determined while reflecting on having his negotiation discretion hamstrung by higher-ups in the OPS hierarchy.
Lucas's testimony indicated that the OPS's response to the Freedom Convoy exacerbated inconveniences impacting Ottawa's residents and undermined the OPS's ability to maintain "public safety" due to the hamstringing of his discretion to negotiate with protesters.
Barber's and Lich's counsel sought to challenge the Crown's description of the Freedom Convoy as "anything but peaceful" by having Lucas confirm in testimony that demonstrators did not become violent towards law enforcement, maintained emergency lanes on roads upon which their vehicles were parked (with the exception of a segment of Wellington Street adjacent to Parliament Hill), and preserved access to Parliament Hill for legislators.
Lawrence Greenspon, Lich's lawyer, told Rebel News that "all the evidence" this far presented to the judge – including the video montage of footage from the demonstration played on Tuesday – confirmed that the demonstrators were "peaceful".
Lucas also acknowledged that the OPS coordinated with law enforcement in Gatineau, QC, to close three of the four interprovincial bridges linking Ottawa and Gatineau in order to obstruct Freedom Convoy supporters from Quebec from joining the protest.
He further recalled the OPS's closures of streets in Ottawa – which increased traffic congestion – in order to reduce "swelling in the downtown core."
Motorists travelling in parts of Ottawa near downtown and those in Gatineau who regularly commute to Ottawa were heavily inconvenienced by these OPS-imposed bridge and road closures.
Upon exiting the courthouse after Wednesday's proceedings, Lich was greeted by supporters.