Event organizer

Convoy of bikers in Ottawa: the organizer warns against “everyone for all”


One of the organizers of a planned motorcycle convoy warns of a ‘chance for all’ on Friday if Ottawa police don’t allow hundreds of protesters to take their bikes to the streets around the Hill. Parliament.

The “Rolling Thunder Ottawa” convoy plans to loop through downtown next weekend, with a scheduled stop at the National War Memorial.

But after the “Freedom Convoy” protest blocked city streets for three weeks earlier this year, police said they would not allow any vehicles in the area around Parliament Hill.

“We will not allow unsafe or illegal conditions that could lead to another protest, as seen in February,” Acting Police Chief Steve Bell told the local police services board on Monday after -noon.

Ottawa police said the RCMP, Ontario Provincial Police and other police departments in the city will send officers to help enforce the new rules.

They also said they contacted motorcycle convoy organizers to understand their plans.

Rolling Thunder organizer Neil Sheard, who has been involved in protests against COVID-19 restrictions, said in a YouTube video that without a road to follow there would be a safety concern.

“Thousands of people are coming into town. There could be over a thousand bikes coming into your town. We had a route nailed down,” Sheard said in the video posted Sunday.

“Now it’s going to be every man for himself.”

He warned Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson that the safety of cyclists and the citizens of Ottawa was at stake. He also said he expected the protest to be peaceful and dignified.

Police are warning the public to be prepared for the possibility of traffic disruptions next weekend, but have yet to tell people to avoid traveling to the city centre.

Downtown Ottawa Councilor Catherine McKenney said the convoy should not stop or stay in central neighborhoods, after Ottawa descended into anarchy during the previous protest.

“I don’t want our community to be re-terrorized. I don’t want our children, elderly and other vulnerable residents to be re-traumatized. Our businesses shouldn’t be forced to close again,” McKenney said on Twitter. Monday.

Bell said the police department is “significantly concerned” that not all members of the convoy will go along with the organizer’s plans and have prepared for the possibility of protesters trying to entrench themselves for days or years. weeks as they did in February.

“Our planning response is being put in place specifically to make sure that doesn’t happen,” Bell said, speaking to reporters on Monday.

The group hasn’t been clear what cause they’re rallying to, except to say they’ll be in Ottawa to “peacefully celebrate our freedom.”

Bell said it was extremely difficult to determine exactly why the crowds were coming, especially with such a large and varied group.

The group says it hopes the veterans, who they say were forced out of the Cenotaph by police during the Freedom Convoy, will lay a wreath at the National War Memorial this weekend.

War memorials and cenotaphs are important symbols of the service and sacrifice of Canadian veterans, said Dion Edmonds, director of marketing and communications for the Royal Canadian Legion.

“The Legion defends these Sacred Sites of Remembrance and affirms that they will never be used as a backdrop for any other program beyond the act of remembrance,” he said.

The Legion appeals to all who gather in front of the National War Memorial this weekend for purely commemorative purposes.

The organizations involved appear to have ties to the convoy demonstration earlier this year which protested COVID-19 restrictions and demanded the resignation of the Liberal government.

The “Rolling Thunder Ottawa” website said it was in partnership with the groups Veterans for Freedom and Freedom Fighters Canada.

Veterans for Freedom describes itself on its website as a group of Canadian veterans working to “restore fundamental freedoms for all Canadians” and “uphold Canadian laws”.

Members of the group’s steering committee all have ties to previous protests, including one who was a spokesperson for the convoy. Others have appeared in YouTube videos supporting convoy protesters.

Freedom Fighters Canada’s website says it is an organization “demanding an end to all government mandates” and an end to “tyrannical legislation”.

“Our government has overstepped its bounds, we are here to put them in their place,” the site says.

Some of its organizers have also publicly attended or supported previous protests.

“Rolling Thunder Ottawa” is scheduled to hold a rally and after-party on Parliament Hill on Friday, followed by a convoy through the streets of downtown Ottawa on Saturday.

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on April 25, 2022.