‘I stand by my decision’: Zexi Li on becoming a face for Ottawa truck convoy counter-protesters

By Dani-Elle Dubé

Filing an injunction against rowdy protesters and being the face of a lawsuit suing those same protesters for the part they played in the nearly month-long truck convoy demonstration wasn’t something 21-year-old Zexi Li took lightly. 

But seeing as there was a lack of leadership in the community to help bring the protest to an end, Li knew she had to do something. 

So, the University of Ottawa graduate stepped up and took the lead.

She started with filing an injunction, which forced truck convoy protesters to stop honking their horns, which they had been doing night and day, leading to the sleep deprivation of many residents in surrounding neighbourhoods. 

But it didn’t come without risks — and Li knew that.

From harassment to threats through emails and social media and phone calls attempting to scare her into thinking the caller knows where she lives, Li — despite her age, which has been a focus since she stepped up — isn’t letting it get to her. 

If anything, she told The Sam Laprade Show on Wednesday, February 23 the messages of support have completely overwhelmed the threats.

“At the end of the day I stand by my decision and I know that what I did was a good thing for the many residents of Ottawa,” she said. 

The public servant, like others in her community, felt abandoned by leaders at all levels of government. So, if they weren’t going to do something about the incessant noise, rowdy crowds and unlawful acts, Li didn’t hesitate to step up.

“I was incredibly frustrated and disappointed by the response from the institutions that are supposed to protect us,” Li said. “I wanted to make a difference and do anything that can help. When I heard Paul Champ was looking for a lead plaintiff and my name was put forward, I agreed almost right away.”

And if she could, Li said she would have served convoy leaders like Pat King, with the lawsuit herself.

As Li recalled, the legal team was having a tough time trying to find King to serve him with the necessary papers. But when they saw he had been arrested and would be in court, they knew that would be their window of opportunity.

“I think it was incredibly satisfying,” Li said. “I think something a lot of people will appreciate is that we went to serve him twice that day. It was incredibly gratifying not only for the individual who did the serving, but for the community that this had been done because we had not been able to get a hold of him prior to this.

“It’s a small relief from what we all suffered.”

Even though King, along with the other organizers and followers, said they hadn’t realized what kind of an impact they were having on Ottawa residents, they still continued the protests.

“Ignorance is not a valid excuse for breaking the law,” Li said.

Looking back on the last three-or-so weeks, she said there have been many lessons learned.

“I think at the beginning there were quite a number of tears and everything hurts, especially for the vulnerable populations especially affected by what was going on,” Li said. “I’m trying to stay positive and trying to spread that positivity because that’s all we can do at this point and there’s a lot of work that still needs to be done.”

Li said she now hopes others in the community will be inspired to make a difference by standing up for what they believe in and becoming leaders in their own communities.

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