When he was confronted with Friday’s police crackdown on anti-pandemic-restriction demonstrators in Ottawa, Pat King, one of the protest’s most prominent figures, elected to broadcast his very bad day.
During his first online video stream on Friday, for which he used Facebook Live, the burly Albertan denounced tow-truck drivers for helping police pull away parked trucks that had blocked central Ottawa’s streets for three weeks.
In his next message, he told protesters to regroup and rally, but maybe also consider waving their white shirts – or white underpants – if confronted by police. “They cannot touch you if you’re holding a white flag,” he said, falsely. “It’s international law.”
But Mr. King’s most remarkable livestream was in the early afternoon. That was when he broadcast video of Ottawa Police arresting him. “They’ve cornered me,” he said into a smartphone on his lap as he sat in a truck’s passenger seat.
“I need my lawyer,” he told a police officer who charged him with mischief-related offences. And with that, Mr. King turned his attention back to his online audience. “I’m being arrested,” he said. “We’ll talk to you guys soon.”
The Red Deer resident’s role in the protest has been outsized, if often officially unacknowledged. He is one of four demonstration leaders who have been taken into custody since Thursday, as police have worked to dislodge protesters from Parliament Hill.
Early on Friday, police began sealing off and clearing downtown Ottawa of demonstrators and large trucks. In the late afternoon, police announced they had arrested more than 70 people. The remaining work by authorities to clear out the protester encampments in and around Ottawa is expected to take days.
Mr. King is prone to online boasts, threats and misinformation. He has built an online following of hundreds of thousands of people. Early this year, his anti-vaccine-mandate posts on social media helped kickstart the protests. He urged truckers and other protesters to come Ottawa as part of a convoy, which many of them did.
A class-action lawsuit filed on behalf of Ottawa residents names Mr. King as a leader of the convoy protest. But the protest’s central leadership does not acknowledge him. “He’s not one of our organizers,” said Dagny Pawlak, a spokesperson for the group.
“I do not represent Pat King in any capacity,” said Keith Wilson, a lawyer for the group. “I do know that I will not be his lawyer.”
The protests in Ottawa have have been ongoing since Jan. 29. The police crackdown began Thursday night, as authorities took two protest leaders into custody. One of them, Chris (Big Red) Barber, a trucker from Swift Current, now faces mischief charges. So does Tamara Lich, a founding member of the Western separatist Maverick Party, who sings in a bar band in Medicine Hat.
A third leader of the group, Benjamin Dichter, is not known to be facing any charges. He tweeted on Friday afternoon that he was gearing up to appear on Fox News in the evening.
The convoy’s security chief, Daniel Bulford, a former Mountie who quit the force over vaccine mandates, gave a speech in an Ottawa hotel during the afternoon. In it, he urged his police colleagues to walk away from their crackdown on the streets. “All you have to do is say, ‘No, I’m not going to do that,’ when you’re directed to enforce unjust, unconstitutional enforcement actions,” he told them.
Then, Mr. Bulford presented himself to police for arrest, according to Ms. Pawlak.
“I’m here to turn myself in,” he told a wall of police officers on an Ottawa street. As he was led away, a protester shouted: “We love you brother.”
Late on Friday, the protesters issued a statement. “Three of our organizers have been arrested,” it said, naming Ms. Lich, Mr. Barber and Mr. Bulford. “This is a grass roots movement and others will fill their roles. We will continue to hold the line.”
The massive police operation in Ottawa to clear the trucker protest continued on Friday afternoon, with 70 arrests and vehicles being towed that had been part of the blockade near Parliament. Interim police chief Steve Bell told a news conference that the police will operate 24/7 to clear the protest.
The Globe and Mail
Our Morning Update and Evening Update newsletters are written by Globe editors, giving you a concise summary of the day’s most important headlines. Sign up today.