Damage control over negative publicity of the RCMP during the crackdown on the Freedom Convoy sent the police force’s media relations department scrambling, with teams monitoring and screenshotting the social media accounts of journalists, according to documents obtained by Rebel News.
As reported by The Rebel’s Sheila Gunn Reid, the surveillance occurred in the wake of leaked Whatsapp group chats showing RCMP officers apparently gloating over the mistreatment of Freedom Convoy protesters, with some luxuriating at the Fairmont Chateau Laurier – Ottawa’s choicest establishment.
In addition to the accounts of True North journalists Andrew Lawton and Cosmin Dzsurdzsa, RCMP surveillance involved collections of screenshots from the social media of other reporters providing positive coverage of the Freedom Convoy. These included Fox News’s Greg Re and Tucker Carlson, Rebel News’s Ian Miles Cheong and Ezra Levant, National Post’s Rupa Subramanya, Counter Signal’s Keean Bexte and independent journalist Benny Johnson.
Rebel and other outlets had published the Whatsapp photos and screenshots, which were leaked on Feb. 19. The same day saw mounted police knock down and trample an elderly First Nations woman – an action that the group chat’s members cheered.
“Just watched that horse video – that is awesome!!! We should practice that manoeuvre,” wrote one member by the name of “Marca.”
Another member under the name of Andrew Nixon wrote, “(t)ime for the protesters to hear our jackboots on the ground.”
He added that they were going to make some “sweet OT (overtime)” that weekend, and urged his colleagues, “(d)on’t kick all of (the protesters) out until next weeks group gets our turn.”
The documents obtained by The Rebel last week show a national police force in crisis, with social media teams exchanging hundreds of emails and other messages. As Gunn Reid reports, the RCMP “sought to identify and delete any promotional postings the agency had used featuring police officers involved in the internal leaked chats.”
Messages also show that RCMP managers were interested in the whistleblower who leaked the chats and that that policer officers were “feeling threatened, paranoid and demonstrating anxiety like symptomology” due to the negative publicity of the leaks.
The RCMP teams also mention Rebel reporter Alexa Lavoie – whom police shot in the leg with a gas canister – alleging that Rebel had set up a website in support of Lavoie even before the incident occurred.
There is also an apparent expression of gratitude towards a reporter who helped curb some of the public outrage over the leaked chats, with police writing, “…this was shut down overnight by an immediate reply to Justin Ling (Thanks Camille).”
The RCMP are one of several police forces who participated in the crackdown on the Freedom Convoy protests between Feb. 17 and 20, after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau invoked the Emergencies Act on Feb. 14.
As exclusively reported by True North, an Access to Information and Privacy request revealed that the RCMP charged taxpayers a total of $234,995.79 for breakfast, lunch and dinner buffets at the Fairmont Chateau Laurier hotel’s Canadian Room.