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False reports of woman’s death at Ottawa protest an example of misinformation, police say

A woman at the heart of a widespread and false report of a trampling death amid the police operation to remove ‘Freedom Convoy’ protesters from the streets of Ottawa on Friday is alive and well, and Ottawa police says this is an example of the misinformation that was spread throughout the three-week demonstration.

Toronto Mounted Police drove through crowds on Friday near the Chateau Laurier Hotel in downtown Ottawa in an attempt to separate the protesters from a slowly advancing line of police. When it happened, videos on social media showed two people falling to the ground as officers on horseback drove through.

The incident is now being investigated by Ontario’s Special Investigations Unit.

Shortly after it happened, a tweet from a Fox News contributor with over a million followers claimed that a woman involved in the incident had died in hospital.

This, however, is wrong. Family members said the woman involved suffered a broken collarbone. The false reports of her death were even joked about in an Instagram video, as a voice asks the woman “are you alive?” and she smiles.

“She is alive and currently resting in a good bed snoring,” the caption reads.

Ottawa police and paramedics also confirmed no one died. Chief paramedic Pierre Poirier said in a statement that 18 people were taken to hospital from the secure area on Friday with non-life-threatening injuries, but no deaths were recorded.

Please note: No one was seriously injured or killed in any of the police actions today. Safety is our priority.
Please note that no one was seriously injured or died in connection with today’s police action. Safety is our priority.

— Ottawa Police (@OttawaPolice)
February 19, 2022

The reporter who sent the tweet falsely claiming someone is dead finally admitted that his report was wrong, but millions of people had seen the tweet by then. It had received over 14,000 retweets and over 15,000 likes before it was finally deleted on Saturday.

Acting Ottawa Police Chief Steve Bell told reporters on Saturday that this was an example of misinformation that they were doing their best to refute.

“When you talk about misinformation, that’s precisely one of the demonstrations for us of that,” Bell said.

Bell said the crowd grew increasingly tense on Friday afternoon until members of the mounted unit pushed through the crowd to create a separation between police and protesters.

“Almost immediately there were tweets, there were photos that had been photoshopped on social media that indicated people had died because of this,” Bell said. “What I can indicate is that there were two members of the protesters who collided with the horses. They fell. They immediately got up and resumed participating in their protest and demonstration activities .”

Bell’s ‘photoshop’ allegation appears to come from footage purporting to show a real Ottawa Police tweet regarding the alleged throwing of a bike at one of the horses, but edited to look like it included a photo of the aftermath of the mounted unit’s movement, where a female walker is seen on the ground. The doctored image was used to cast doubt on police claims that a bicycle had been thrown at a horse.

The Ottawa Police Service’s actual tweet about the alleged bicycle-throwing incident did not include a photo.

Meanwhile, a bicycle was thrown at the feet of one of the horses in an attempt to injure him. A person has been arrested for intentionally injuring a law enforcement animal.

— Ottawa Police (@OttawaPolice)
February 18, 2022

Bell didn’t give details of the incident when asked about it on Saturday.

“We will need to get more specific information on this for you and I will be able to provide you with more in the coming days,” he said.

Police on Twitter claimed the horse was tripped but unharmed.

We hear your concern for people on the ground after the horses dispersed a crowd. Anyone who fell got up and walked away. We are not aware of any injuries. A bicycle was thrown at the horse further down the line and tripped the horse. The horse was not injured. pic.twitter.com/4AYiw1q3W0

— Ottawa Police (@OttawaPolice)
February 19, 2022

Police have made 191 arrests since Friday’s operation began to evict protesters. A large police presence remains downtown on Sunday.

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