Twitter announcements put out by the Ottawa Police Service (OPS) during last weekend’s crackdown on Freedom Convoy protesters have received some unflattering international attention.
As law enforcement moved in on the Ottawa demonstrators, the OPS continually put out statements – some containing threats – in order to deter protesters and to keep residents of the city updated on the situation.
The tweets made it far beyond Canada’s capital, however, drawing reactions from foreign politicians, journalists and other public figures and organizations.
The most controversial tweet by far was where the OPS declared they would actively look to track down and charge anyone seen at convoy demonstrations.
Over 20,000 people commented, and over 10,000 shared the tweet.
Respondents included Texas Republican senator Ted Cruz, who retweeted it saying, “this is what happens without the First Amendment.”
The statement even got the attention of CNN contributor Mary Katharine Ham, who tweeted, “who is running this account?”
On Feb 18, demonstrators including an elderly Indigenous woman were reportedly injured after police used riot horses to disrupt the crowd.
The OPS claimed on Twitter that police on horseback were brought in due to “aggressive” behaviour from protesters and that a bicycle had been thrown at one of the horses. A review of several videos and photographs of the incident appears to show no such incident, however.
The OPS also said that there had not been any serious injuries from the trampling even though there were reports of people being sent to hospital as well as an investigation launched by the Special Investigations Unit (SIU).
Responding to the tweet, US activist and former Navy SEAL Carl Higbie invited the OPS to “(n)ame one person who assaulted an officer… Your officers advanced INTO protesters and you used horses to push them back even further.” He added that the department was “full of sh*t.”
Social media personality Mike Cernovich also chimed in, calling the OPS “liars.”
Meanwhile, a tweet by the OPS put out last Saturday morning also received a lot of attention when it accused protesters of being “assaultive and aggressive” and stated police would respond with helmets and batons.
Conservative commentator Dave Rubin made strong accusations in his quote tweet, writing, “(y)es they (the police) are Nazi’s and no I will not apologize for saying it.”
Ukrainian-American author, podcaster and columnist Micheal Malice facetiously rephrased the tweet, saying, “(y)ou were aggressive with the horses that were trampling you,” then referred to the OPS as “the filth”.
Talk radio host Michael Berry tweeted, “(t)he beatings will continue until morale improves.”
TPUSA personality Benny Johnson shared the OPS tweet, adding, “(y)ou are assaulting Journalists.”
This came after police shot Rebel News reporter Alexa Lavoie in the leg with a gas canister at point-blank range.
Police also pepper-sprayed True North journalist Andrew Lawton. A lawyer has since been retained on behalf of Lawton and True North for an upcoming lawsuit.
The tweets from the OPS also resulted in a lot of memes, including some that poked fun at the claim that a bicycle was thrown at one of the horses.
Parody accounts of the police department were also created, including one called Ottawa Gestapo, whose bio reads, “we do it for your health and safety”
The account has multiple amusing tweets, with some resembling those put out by the verified OPS account.
Another Twitter account going by the username @911policeottawa also parodied the OPS account, although Twitter has since suspended it for violating the platform’s rules.
The OPS has since established a secure zone around downtown Ottawa following the invocation of the Emergencies Act last week.
Despite the Act being revoked on Wednesday, police can still be seen controlling access to the city’s downtown core.