One of the remaining organizers of the Freedom Convoy who hasn’t been arrested is calling on protesters to peacefully and immediately withdraw from Ottawa to avoid the heavy-handed police response.

Speaking at a press conference at the Lord Elgin hotel Saturday afternoon, Tom Marazzo said it was time for demonstrators to leave to avoid further harm.

“There isn’t anything to be gained by being brutalized by police,” Marazzo said.

Marazzo’s announcement comes after police used aggressive tactics –  including riot gear, horses and “chemical irritants” – on Friday and Saturday to disperse peaceful protesters who are demanding an end to the country’s COVID-19 mandates and restrictions.

Marazzo said that the grassroots movement would regroup, noting the Ottawa demonstration was “one battle in a larger war.”

He also confirmed that the elderly woman who was trampled by a police horse yesterday is alive despite rumours on social media that she had died in hospital. 

Marazzo went on to say that it was a dark day in Canadian history.

“Never in my life would I believe anyone if they told me that our prime minister would refuse dialogue, and choose violence against peaceful protesters,” he said.

He mentioned how the convoy protests were always peaceful, adding, “the violence came to us when the police arrived.” 

Marazzo said the truckers will initiate a Charter challenge to try to strike down vaccine mandates. He added that legal counsel for those who have been injured and/or arrested by police is also being organized. 

Several of the Freedom Convoy organizers have already been arrested, including Chris Barber, Danny Bulford, and Tamara Lich.

While Marazzo said he isn’t aware of any warrants for his arrest, he confirmed that his bank account has been frozen and his credit cards cancelled. He added that his spouse’s credit score dropped 109 points yesterday, despite the fact that she is not even in Ottawa.

True North’s Andrew Lawton was present at the press conference and asked whether there had been discussions with the OPP granting amnesty to protesters choosing to leave Ottawa. 

Marazzo responded that he had been told police are doing a “catch and release” operation where people are removed from Ottawa’s downtown core and then let go.

When asked about children being present at downtown protests near the police lines, Marazzo said that he would personally not bring his children into this type of situation. 

He added, however, that parents should be making those decisions for themselves.

True North’s Andrew Lawton also asked Marazzo if he could confirm whether convoy organizers are now in control of the money raised via the GiveSendGo fundraiser. Marazzo said he could not speak to that issue.

Things got tense when another journalist followed up by asking if people in Ottawa would be compensated for alleged “property damages.” Marazzo brushed off the question, after which some of the journalists in attendance began arguing with each other.

Although the Freedom Convoy demonstrations have been largely peaceful, they have disrupted some downtown Ottawa residents and businesses. These inconveniences led to organizers working out a deal last Sunday with mayor Jim Watson to move the trucks out of residential areas and onto Wellington Street. The deal with the city was, however, called off by the OPP when the Trudeau Government invoked the Emergencies Act.

Marazzo said that the withdrawal of the convoy and its organizers is not a white flag of surrender. He said one of the wins for them is that there were still many Canadians out in the streets to support the cause despite violence from the police. 

Marazzo also said that the most meaningful thing that people can do is learn and understand the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, adding “start exercising your charter rights; do it today.”

Since beginning in late January, the Freedom Convoy has been supported by Canadians across the country and received international attention.

Even before the first trucks arrived in Ottawa, however, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had dismissed them as a “fringe minority” holding “unacceptable views.” He refused to meet with the truckers during their time in Ottawa, opting instead to remove them using aggressive police tactics.

True North is covering this developing story.