July 18th, 2024

‘Our last stand’: Murder-conspiracy trial sees phone texts from Coutts blockade

By The Canadian Press on June 27, 2024.

A truck convoy of anti-COVID-19 vaccine mandate demonstrators block the highway at the busy U.S. border crossing in Coutts, Alta., Wednesday, Feb. 2, 2022. A police phone expert is to continue testifying today at the trial for two men charged with conspiracy to commit murder at the border blockade at Coutts, Alta. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

LETHBRIDGE, Alta. – A picture of rage and determination among COVID-19 protesters at the border blockade at Coutts, Alta., was spelled out in text messages shown Thursday at a murder-conspiracy trial.

“It’s our last stand here,” said one message in a group chat. “If we lose Coutts we have lost. I will not lose.”

“Sometimes you have to sacrifice yourself for the greater good,” stated another.

“We ain’t leaving,” said an individual identified as Reid.

“We ain’t going nowhere … unless it’s in a body bag.”

Another person identified as Terri threatened to bring the whole place down: “I know I am going to die. It might as well be for the right things.”

Another promised to send in “heavy hitters” if the protest escalated, and pledged “sacrifice if needed.”

“They touch anyone it’s full open season. They know this,” another replied.

RCMP analyst Breanne Deforest told jurors the texts were gathered in 2022 from phones seized during arrests that ended of the two-week protest at the Canada-U.S. border crossing.

The protest mirrored others across the nation against pandemic rules and vaccine mandates viewed by some as unnecessary and unfair.

After the arrests, remaining protesters left Coutts peacefully and immediately.

Two protesters, Anthony Olienick and Chris Carbert, are on trial in Lethbridge, Alta., charged with conspiring to kill Mounties at the blockade.

An RCMP officer testified last week that rifles, body armour and buckets full of ammunition were found in a modular home near the blockade site.

In a trailer, police discovered assault-style rifles, a shotgun, a pistol, ammunition and body armour. There was also a firearms licence in Carbert’s name.

Olienick and Carbert are also charged with mischief and possession of a weapon for a dangerous purpose. Olienick faces a further charge of being in possession of a pipe bomb.

Undercover officers have testified Olienick told them he believed police were pawns of the federal government and that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was the devil. Police should be hanged, he said, and if officers raided the blockade he would “slit their throats.”

In a police interrogation video shown to the jury, Olienick denied targeting police but said he fears an invasion by United Nations troops or Chinese communists.

In the video, he characterized himself and others as ” sheepdogs” protecting “the flock” from tyrannical invaders.

He cried when police told him the blockade ended after the arrests.

He is later seen sitting in the empty interrogation room contemplating the demise of the blockade, saying aloud, “I’m sorry, God.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 27, 2024.

– By Bill Graveland in Calgary

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