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Bail hearing for convoy organizer Billings adjourned until Monday


The 44-year-old from High Prairie, Alta., was arrested by Ottawa police on  Feb. 19. He has been in custody since then.

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A bail hearing for Tyson George Billings, a prominent organizer of the trucker demonstrations that blockaded downtown Ottawa, has been adjourned until Monday morning.

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The Crown has asked that Billings not be released on bail.

Billings, 44, of High Prairie, Alta., was arrested by Ottawa police on  Feb. 19. He has been in custody since then.

He was charged with mischief, counselling to commit the offence of mischief, counselling to commit the offence of disobey court order, obstructing police and counselling to commit the offence of obstruct police.

Crown Tara Dobec said Friday that two additional counts were being added against Billings: breaching a court order and counselling others to breach a court order.

Billings appeared at bail court in Ottawa on Friday wearing a sweatshirt that said “Freedom.”

Billings, who was given the nickname “Freedom George” by supporters, has posted numerous livestreams of scenes in downtown Ottawa when protesters occupied the streets, interjecting his own commentary and frequently yelling “Freedom” and “Let’s go, let’s go.”

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He’s a close associate of Patrick King, another key organizer who has been charged and was also having a bail hearing Friday.

At the bail hearing for Billings, the Crown presented numerous video snippets from the Facebook pages of Billings and King, as well as TikTok videos.

In a dramatic livestream from Feb. 18, when officers on horseback rode into the crowd near Rideau and Sussex to divide protesters from police, Billings shouts that horses are mowing down people.

“Hold the line!” he screams. “Don’t be scared. It’s scare tactics, guys! Scare tactics 101.”

“Anybody with drums get down here, we need ’em …,” Billings says in the video. “Calling all nations, get to Ottawa, we are making history here. Let’s go, let’s go.”

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Other videos shown in court feature Billings discussing getting jerry cans of fuel to protesters, participating in a convoy line of honking vehicles that disrupted traffic at the Ottawa airport for two hours and saying, “We’ll shut the city down.”

Billings also livestreamed his own arrest on his Facebook page, Freedom Forusall, as he drove in a truck down Slater Street on the evening of Feb. 19. He is seen boasting that he had evaded police roadblocks, then is pulled over and arrested by police, who confiscate what Billings describes as his “personal, legal” six-inch knife.

In the statement he gave to police after his arrest, Billings called Patrick King his “best friend” and said they had created a movement together that could not be stopped, the court heard.

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In the statement to police, which was summarized by the Crown, Billings said he drove through police roadblocks, that the court system was corrupt and he would only return home if vaccine mandates ended.

He doesn’t need much money and can live in the bush, Billings told police in the statement.

The Facebook livestreams posted on Freedom Forusall in the days before his arrest feature hours of scenes at the protests downtown, with Billings providing commentary and describing them as peaceful.

When police closed in on crowds on Feb. 18, Billing was livestreaming the action, referring to protesters as soldiers, urging people to “hold the line,” invoking God, warning that lies and corruption would be exposed and asking the grim-faced rows of riot police to find Jesus and join the protesters.

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“Get right with God! Jesus is here! It’s time to stand with your people,” he said during a livestream Feb. 18 as he repeatedly asked police to join them.

“As soon as you guys do it, it’s over!” he yelled at one point. “The government’s gone, (Prime Minister Justin) Trudeau is done. Let’s go!”

“Jesus is here, you just need to find the spirit! … Hallelujah, baby. Let’s go, let’s go, let’s go!”

While the convoy protest was about ending vaccine mandates and public-health restrictions protecting people from COVID-19, many of the protesters were also critical of the Trudeau government and espoused a wide range of other causes under the slogan of “freedom.”

The concept of “freedom” espoused by Billings is far-reaching.

In one of his livestreams, Billings said he expected to be arrested and that was OK.

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“We didn’t come here to leave. This is ground zero, guys, for all of our kids. This is for the kids, the fallen soldiers, the kids that haven’t been found, the missing women, this is for al of it. Child trafficking, high taxes, all of it! Come on, Let’s go!”

In his livestreams, Billings make frequent references to God.

“Eventually everyone’s going to turn to God and everyone’s going to understand that he’s in charge,” Billings said in one livestream, “and we’re all just sitting here in this crazy, soap opera movie.”

During the afternoon session, the Crown presented its arguments for keeping Billings in custody while the defence argued he should be granted bail.

Dobec said there was ample evidence that Billings supported and encouraged others to participate in an unprecedented protest in downtown Ottawa that could only be described as an occupation.

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Billings is a “major player” in the occupation that caused widespread harm and “terrorized” people in Ottawa, Dobec said.

Billings repeatedly ignored warnings from police to desist from protesting and “upped the ante” by participating in a convoy protest at the airport and on Highway 417 and called on people to bring jerry cans to fuel the trucks, she said.

“It just goes on and on and on.”

Billings owns firearms in Alberta; has a criminal record that is now dated, has no ties to Ottawa, has told police that “it’s not over” and yelled freedom chants even as he was being arrested, she said.

The Crown will seek a “substantial jail sentence,” given the severity of the offences, she said.

Defence lawyer Oleksiy Bykov said the court must consider the over-reaching importance of liberty and the severity of losing it for even one day. Billings has been accused, but not convicted of any crime, and there must be a presumption of innocence, he said.

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There is no evidence that Billings won’t attend his trial, he understands the gravity of the charges and his brother will act as surety, Bykov said.

Billings has three children he supports, Bykov said, and he wants to go home.

Besides, the protest is over, he said.

“It is highly unlikely that it will happen again.”

Cole Billings, Tyson George’s brother, testified he would act as a surety and put up $50,000.

Cole Billings is a farmer, works in the oil fields and lives nearby his brother in High Prairie.

Cole Billings said he would contact authorities if his brother breached any bail conditions and would even drive him to court in Ontario, if need be.

He can’t watch his brother 24 hours a day, and his own job sometimes takes him away for 15-hour shifts, Cole Billings testified, but he trusts his brother to abide by bail conditions.

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He would prefer that his brother not live with him, Cole Billings said, saying he needs his own personal space. “I like the guy, but not that much.”

Tyson George Billings is divorced and doesn’t have a permanent job, but has worked as a truck driver, helping people with harvests, and “just kind of helping people out here and there,” Cole Billings added.

Cole Billings said he supported the “freedom movement” and said he thought it was great that people were “allowed to live their lives.”

“My stance on the whole protest is the unity and what it done for the country was great. People felt great again. They’ve been beat down for two years.”

However, Cole Billings also made it clear that, while he supported peaceful protest, he opposed any type of protest that had been deemed illegal.

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