Convoy in Lethbridge as three men charged in border blockade appear in court

Anti-mandate demonstrators gather as a truck convoy blocks the highway the busy U.S. border crossing in Coutts, Alta., Monday, Jan. 31, 2022. Police in Lethbridge say there could be traffic congestion in the southern Alberta city as a convoy of vehicles arrives to support three men charged in the Coutts blockade. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

About 500 people gathered outside a courthouse in southern Alberta to support three men charged in a blockade at the U.S.-Canadian border, but police said Friday the protest caused little disturbance.

Earlier in the day, Lethbridge police warned of potential traffic congestion in the southern Alberta city as a convoy of vehicles arrived around the downtown courthouse.

The three men appeared in court briefly Friday morning.

Marco Van Huigenbos, 32, and Alex Van Herk, 53 — both of Fort Macleod, Alta. — have been charged with mischief over $5,000, as has George Janzen, 43, of Taber, Alta.

Van Huigenbos, one of the organizers of the border protest against COVID-19 measures, is a councillor in Fort Macleod, nearly 50 kilometres west of Lethbridge.

Roads and business access in the area remained open during the men’s court appearance, police said.

“However, police were stationed at various intersections to restrict tractor trailers and other heavy equipment from leaving truck routes to enter the downtown core,” police said in a news release Friday.

“With the exception of a few parking challenges as a result of the influx of people and vehicles, the gathering was peaceful and no police action was required.”

Van Huigenbos, Van Herk and Janzen are scheduled to be back in the Court of King’s Bench on Dec. 12 for arraignment. Their lawyers told a provincial court judge Friday that they want to be tried by a judge and jury.

RCMP have said the charges against the men stem from them being key participants at the blockade at the border crossing in Coutts, Alta., which took place for a couple weeks in late January.

A trial before a judge and jury has been scheduled for June of next year for four other men charged with conspiracy to commit murder at the blockade.

Chris Carbert, Chris Lysak, Anthony Olienick and Jerry Morin were charged in February after RCMP found a cache of guns, body armour and ammunition in trailers at the protest near Coutts.

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