The Royal Canadian Mounted Police announced on Sunday that it is “looking into” leaked messages apparently from an officers’ chat group, in which members appear to cheer on the trampling of Freedom Convoy demonstrators in Ottawa, and declared it “time for the protesters to hear our jackboots on the ground.”
“The RCMP is aware of the material circulating on social media pertaining to a chat group that includes some of its members, and we can confirm that we are looking into the matter,” read a statement from the force. “This material is not representative of those who have committed themselves to serving Canadians with integrity and professionalism.”
A federal police force, the RCMP were brought in to assist Ottawa Police officers in clearing the Freedom Convoy protest that had occupied much of downtown Ottawa for the past three weeks. The crackdown was a brutal one, and as city and federal officers arrested nearly 200 people since Friday and seized 76 vehicles, video footage emerged showing baton beatings, attacks with projectile weapons, and a mounted cavalry charge into a crowd of demonstrators.
According to screenshots posted online on Saturday, RCMP officers cheered on this crackdown. The screenshots, purportedly taken from the force’s ‘Musical Ride’ group chat, showed a member named ‘Marca’ saying “just watched the horse video – that is awesome” and adding “we should practice that manoeuvre.”
Another member named ‘Andrew Nixon’ posted a picture of himself holding a pint of beer, telling his fellow officers “Don’t kick all of them out until next week’s group gets our turn,” and saying that it was “time for the protesters to hear our jackboots on the ground.”
The screenshots were posted on Twitter, and heavily publicized by Canada’s Rebel News, a right-wing outlet whose reporter said she was earlier shot with a non-lethal weapon at close range by an officer.
The police crackdown came after Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau invoked the never-before-used Emergencies Act last week. As well as empowering police to clear the streets, the act permits the government to freeze bank accounts and cryptocurrency wallets belonging to protest participants and donors.
Interim Ottawa Police Chief Steve Bell declared the protest “over” on Saturday. However, Bell warned on Friday that his department would continue to hunt down those who had been involved in the protests and punish them financially. “If you are involved in this protest, we will actively look to identify you and follow up with financial sanctions and criminal charges,” he threatened.
While a number of Canadian provinces have relaxed their Covid-19 restrictions since the protest began, Trudeau’s nationwide vaccine mandate for cross-border truckers – the rule that sparked the demonstration in the first place – remains in force.