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Tamara Lich, Chris Barber, Benjamin Dichter and others have been identified as key figures

A protestor waves a Canadian flag in front of Parliament Hill on the 15th day of a protest against COVID-19 measures that has grown into a broader anti-government protest in Ottawa.Justin Tang/The Canadian Press

In the conference rooms of downtown Ottawa hotels, an ever-changing cast of characters has stepped up to speak for the convoy of protesters camped out on Parliament’s doorstep.

But a recent statement from convoy organizers confirms that the truckers and others demanding an end to COVID-19 public-health restrictions have three main leaders: Chris Barber, Tamara Lich and Benjamin Dichter.

Here’s a look at them and some other key figures in the stalemate on the streets of Ottawa.

The Ottawa protests’ havoc is spreading from Windsor to Alberta. Where are the trucker convoys now?


Frame grab from video of Chris Barber in Ottawa posted to TikTok.TikTok

The trucker talking down Trudeau

Six-foot-four and from Swift Current, Sask., Chris Barber is a gruff, profane and fully vaccinated trucker with a lot of pull. Long before any trucker revved a rig and pointed it in protest at Ottawa, his TikTok takedowns of what he calls the “liberal left” were drawing tens of thousands of likes.

He calls his rig “Red” and it is his pulpit. He uses a mounted smartphone to shoot his driver’s seat discourse. “I am a driver. I crossed the border. I’m fully vaccinated,” Mr. Barber said in a recent video. “This is not about vaccinations. This is about mandates and government overreach.”

In his posts, he conveys anger at social-media platforms for occasionally shutting him down. He denounces trucking associations that have condemned the convoy and pointed out nearly 90 per cent of Canadian truckers are vaccinated and working. And in recent days, he has told truckers in Ottawa to be peaceful if confronted by police. But also to barricade themselves in their rigs if they face arrest.

Days before the convoy began, Mr. Barber was hauling a load in Alexandria, Minn. He said on TikTok that the protest convoy should go to Ottawa even if there were no vaccination mandates. Just so people could take a stand against Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

“Trudeau could mandate puppy murder and everyone would say ‘It’s only a few puppies. We’re Canadian. Get over it,’” he said on TikTok. “Kind of like he did with the guns. Kind of like he did with the carbon tax.”


The woman out to fix Western alienation

Tamara Lich, an organizer of the protest, speaks with police liaison officers as truckers and their supporters continue to protest against vaccine mandates, in Ottawa on Feb. 10.PATRICK DOYLE/Reuters

Tamara Lich, a singer in a bar band in Medicine Hat, is the convoy’s main organizer and spokesperson.

In late January, she journeyed east to Ottawa with Mr. Barber in his rig. She posted from the road on Facebook Live. At points, she showed her parents in rural Alberta escorting the rig with the truck they use to shepherd wide loads. “My mom and dad run a pilot truck business, by the way,” Ms. Lich said.

Tamara Lich delivers a statement during a news conference in Ottawa on Feb. 3.Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press

She often complained that hackers were trying to disrupt the convoy. “We’ve been getting cyber attacks, bigtime. Isn’t that crazy? A bunch of trucking men and women, and one little five-foot-tall blonde girl, are so important that they’re trying to shut down our website? Sick …”

The roots of today’s convoy protests lie in the 2019 United We Roll protest. Back then, a smaller convoy of trucks from the West journeyed to Ottawa for a couple of days – and left. Organizers said they were in the nation’s capital to denounce federal policies on oil and gas. But some speakers urged clampdowns on illegal immigration. Andrew Scheer, then leader of the Conservative Party, faced criticism for speaking at the same United We Roll rally as Faith Goldy, a white nationalist.

A 2020 profile of Ms. Lich in the Medicine Hat Post described her as a regional convoy organizer for United We Roll. She spoke of job losses in Alberta’s oil sands affecting everyone, including herself. “While working in an administrative position for an oil field services company, I witnessed many good people suffering,” she said. Ottawa never seemed to care, she added.

Ms. Lich had a role in starting a separatist party, but resigned from it this month. “Tamara is one of the original members of the Maverick Party governing council,” the party said in a Feb. 2 statement. The Maverick platform is to “achieve greater fairness and self-determination for Western Canadians through fundamental change, or the creation of an independent nation.”

During her journey to Ottawa, Ms. Lich thanked a group known as Canada Unity for promoting the convoy online. In December, the group published a manifesto urging Canada’s Senate and the Governor-General to take over the government and end vaccination mandates. It retracted its manifesto this week, saying it “does not reflect the spirit and intent of the freedom convoy movement 2022.”


The Bitcoin booster who dreads ‘political Islam’

Chris Barber, left, Benjamin Dichter, middle, and Tamara Lich, right, in a video of a truck protest media conference, posted to YouTube on Feb. 1.YouTube

Podcast producer Benjamin Dichter is an unlikely leader of a truckers’ protest against vaccination mandates. “I am double vaccinated,” he said in a YouTube interview this week.

In 2015, he was an aspiring politician in downtown Toronto who ran unsuccessfully for the Conservatives. He also helped start a political group called LGBTory.

Then he gravitated to podcast producing. In 2018, a Muslim charity sued him, saying he aired a smear campaign. Mr. Dichter “is a critic of the supposed influence of Islam in Canadian society,” reads a claim filed in the Ontario Superior Court.

Denying defamation, Mr. Dichter and his co-defendants raised $40,000 through the GoFundMe crowdfunding service for their defence. That same year, he gave a speech to the People’s Party of Canada in which he alleged Islamic front groups were infiltrating the country’s political institutions. “The adaptation of political Islam is rotting away at our society like syphilis,” he said.

Mr. Dichter has said on social media that Ms. Lich asked him to help her organize the GoFundMe for the 2022 convoy. That effort raised $10-million before the company shut it down last week. GoFundMe said it did so because the convoy protesters were gravitating toward the promotion of violence and harassment in Ottawa.

Mr. Dichter is now soliciting donations in cryptocurrency. In livestreamed YouTube discussions, he describes himself as a booster of bitcoin specifically because no state can police it. Many protest supporters have switched to the GiveSendGo crowdfunding service. The U.S. company raised millions within days of the GoFundMe shutdown. On Thursday, the Ontario government got an order from a judge blocking the flow of these foreign-controlled funds into Canada.

The judicial order was served on an entity called Freedom 2022 Human Rights and Freedoms. This federally registered not-for-profit corporation was created on Jan. 30 to hold and distribute funds for the protest. “We’ve taken steps to establish the appropriate banking and other arrangements,” Alberta lawyer Keith Wilson said last week. He spoke of being part of a group of “corporate lawyer experts on the team as well as accountants.”


Frame grab from an online video of Pat King at the Coventry Rd. protest site in Ottawa, posted on Feb. 9.Handout

The conspiracy theorist with a constituency

Burly, gravel-voiced Pat King is often regarded as another big boss. A class-action lawsuit filed on behalf of Ottawa residents whose lives are being disrupted by the demonstrators names him as a fourth leader of the convoy protest. That action has led an Ottawa judge to issue an injunction against incessant horn honking. When that ruling came out, Mr. King released a video telling the truckers to pipe down – and they did.

A veteran of the 2019 United We Roll campaign, Mr. King spoke to CBC at that time about growing up in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., before moving to Red Deer, Alta. He was asked to address allegations that racism played a role in the 2019 protest. “We are not racists,” he said. “We have every ethnicity in this convoy.”

In recent years, Mr. King has built a social media base of hundreds of thousands of followers, speaking in videos about whatever comes to mind – including conspiracy theories. In recent weeks, anti-hate groups have reposted many of his past online remarks. In one, he speaks of an immigration plot that would see the “depopulation of the Caucasian race.”


Above, Tom Marazzo in a video posted to YouTube on Feb. 10. Below, Daniel Bulford, left, and Tom Quiggin, right, in a video posted on Feb. 9.

The convoy security

Several former members of the Canadian Armed Forces, the RCMP and even the Privy Council Office – the nerve centre of the Canadian government – have turned up in proximity to the organizers. In public statements, they have highlighted their past security work for the government even as they claim the Parliament elected last fall has no legitimacy.

“I’m willing to sit at a table with the Conservatives, and the NDP, and the Bloc [Québécois], as a coalition,” former soldier Tom Marazzo said at a convoy news conference. He says he is a liaison with police for the Ottawa protest. The military confirms he served from 1998 to 2016, and finished as a captain in the army.

Former Mountie Daniel Bulford says he has also been on the phone with local authorities on behalf of the convoy. “I resigned from the RCMP over the mandates,” he said at a news conference. He explained he had been a personal-protection police officer tasked with safeguarding politicians and the Parliamentary precinct.

RCMP spokesperson Robin Percival said Mr. Bulford is now retired from the RCMP. “We can confirm he was a corporal and his last substantive [position] was with the emergency response team at National Division,” he said.

Former federal intelligence analyst Tom Quiggin says he works on “protective intelligence” for the convoy. He was in the PCO, the RCMP, the military and even international arms inspection before he left government in the early 2000s.

With reports from Rick Cash and Stephanie Chambers


THE DECIBEL

The occupation of streets in downtown Ottawa and blockades at two border crossings to the US, including our busiest in Windsor, Ont. continues. Reporter Colin Freeze tells us more about who the leaders are of the Freedom Convoy, including those fundraising millions of dollars to support it. Subscribe for more episodes.


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