Local man peaceful protest, speculates ‘provocateurs’ at work during blockade

“Maybe, some people want to end this five or six days of demonstrations in some violent way.”

The admission comes from a McGregor man who was involved in the blockade of the Ambassador Bridge when he testified before the Public Order Emergency Committee last February.

Co-owner of the small business and father of three Paul Leskid said he participated in the blockade of the Ambassador Bridge in the first four days of the protests.He said he would arrive after putting the kids to bed around 9pm and leave the scene at the latest at 1am some nights

Protesters on Huron Church Road in Windsor. Photo by Maureen Rewart.

But after the fourth day, he decided not to come back. With rumors of mass arrests and possible skirmishes on the horizon, Leschied said he believed police were preparing to “bring the protests to a screeching halt.”

Testimony before the Public Order Emergency Committee on Tuesday can be viewed here.

He later heard from friends who returned that Saturday that some protesters were yelling at police as they began to enter to end the demonstration.

Windsor Police attorney Tom McRae called them “provocateurs”.

Rashed speculated on the motives of these “provocateurs” during cross-examination, saying it was contrary to the atmosphere of protests in previous days.

“The protests throughout the week were peaceful,” he said. “That was never the intention of anyone out there. Inappropriate.”

Leschied also testified that he heard rumours of a ban on blockades on the Ambassador Bridge, but never saw an accompanying letter to protesters asking them to leave. Likewise, he said he had not heard of a letter from the Ontario government offering to meet if demonstrators left Huron Church Road.

(Photo by Adele Loisel)

(Photo by Adele Loisel)

Leschied admits he doesn’t watch much of the traditional news media, but relies on word of mouth from friends and social media to keep him updated on what’s going on at Ambassador Bridge and Ottawa’s occupation. He argued that news reports had unfairly portrayed protesters and exaggerated the scope of the demonstrations.

One took place via social media with Pat King, the so-called Ottawa Occupy co-organizer. Leschied testified that he asked if the protests at the Houses of Parliament were related to those in Windsor and received a “clear negative”.

During cross-examination by Canadian government lawyer Cynthia Lau, Leschied told the committee that he was the co-owner of a small business that was building a custom kitchen. He acknowledged his reliance on cross-border trade for supplies and that supply chain disruptions would hurt his financial prospects. He understands how the Ambassador Bridge has become a strategic asset in the Canadian supply chain.

Later, he said the protests appealed to him because some of his friends were on the brink of bankruptcy due to provincial COVID-19 restrictions.

Liu went on to question whether he knew the disruption to the Ambassador Bridge would negatively affect the auto industry, one of Windsor’s biggest employers. Leschied admitted that he could assume the lockdown would hurt production and employment.

Leschied also confirmed earlier testimony by OPP chief Dana Earley that the group that blocked the bridge in February last year appeared to have no leadership. Early testified that the loose nature of the protests made any negotiations with participants difficult.

Testimony by the Public Order Emergency Committee is expected to continue this week and next, with testimony from a number of federal government officials, including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

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