The organizer of the upcoming “Rolling Thunder” bicycle convoy in Ottawa promises a peaceful event this weekend, as perhaps more than a thousand people arrive for a multi-day rally.
Speaking on Newstalk 580 CFRA The Evan Solomon Showorganizer Neil Sheard said the event was intended to “take back” the National War Memorial.
“This is a bike rally to help heal and restore that dignity to this monument that has been desecrated by the powers that be,” he said.
Sheard said the erection of a fence around the National War Memorial during the occupation of the “Freedom Convoy” in January and February was a “desecration” of the monument. The fences were erected following video of a woman jumping over the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier during the first weekend of the convoy protest and later peeing in the snow on the monument.
Sheard said the woman who jumped on the grave was quickly yelled at and he believed the dogs were responsible for the urine stains.
“We were guarding it,” he said, of the veterans who stood guard at the monument as the occupation dragged on. “Next, the powers that will be decided to enter and physically remove the veterans from sacred ground.”
Police officers, empowered by the Emergencies Act, decided on February 18 and 19 to evict convoy protesters and others from their entrenched positions downtown, including at the Canadian war. This happened three weeks after the first protesters arrived and began parking large vehicles along Wellington Street and throughout downtown. The operation led to dozens of arrests and dozens of vehicles were seized. Wellington Street in front of Parliament remains closed to vehicles.
Ottawa police are banning vehicles in a downtown area this weekend. Sheard said the group had a planned itinerary for their gathering.
The motor vehicle exclusion zone, as defined by the City of Ottawa, for the “Rolling Thunder” motorcycle rally from April 29 to May 1. (City of Ottawa)
“We’ve worked with the city, we’ve worked with the police, and now we have a route, and it’s all sorted out,” he said. “We are not going around the monument. We’re going to do a drive-by again. We’ll keep the bikes under control, bring them in, do a little salute with the bikes going through Mackenzie, cross the bridge at Mackenzie, back down to Rideau, then push the town back.
According to an itinerary posted on the “Rolling Thunder” website, there will be a rally and march on Parliament Hill Friday at 6 p.m. Bikers will gather at the St-Laurent Shopping Center at 9 a.m. Saturday. At 10 a.m. there will be a Veterans for Freedom service at the National War Memorial. Bikers will crisscross the city between 11 a.m. and 12 p.m. A second rally on Parliament Hill is scheduled for 2 p.m., then a bike show is scheduled for 6 p.m., with a location to be determined. They will be heading to Capital City Bikers’ Church in Vanier on Sunday morning.
In response to concerns about noise, which was ubiquitous during the occupation of “Freedom Convoy”, Sheard said there would be no bicycles in circulation at night.
“They come in, race, go for a drive, and then they’re done,” he said. “Some will stay in town to spend the night shopping in your beautiful city. Some will go home.
NOTORIOUS CHARACTER CHRIS SKY LISTED AS ‘SPECIAL GUEST SPEAKER’
When pressed about notorious far-right figure Chris “Sky” Saccoccia being on the route, Sheard claimed he was not involved in the event.
“He had nothing to do with it,” Sheard said. “There is not a feature in this area. It has nothing to do with it.
The schedule for the “Rolling Thunder” website says that on April 30 there will be a rally and march on Parliament Hill with “special guest Chris Sky”. He is the only person named on the itinerary.
Sheard, who insisted the event was “purely about veterans,” told Solomon that Saccoccia would not speak at the National War Memorial, but that he “could be somewhere else to speak” on Saturday.
“He’s not part of what’s happening on the monument,” Sheard said.
Saccoccia has been a leading figure in protests against COVID-19 mandates. He was arrested in Winnipeg and Thunder Bay for violating public health orders and was charged in Toronto with make death threatsassault on a peace officer and dangerous operation of a conveyance in 2021.
The Canadian Anti-Hate Network has also documented that Saccoccia has a history of sectarian commentsincluding Holocaust denial, racism and homophobia.
Sheard insisted that Saccoccia was not involved in rallying veterans.
“Chris Sky has nothing to do with what’s happening on the veterans side,” he said. “There is a list of things that will happen that day. He is not a special guest of ours. He is not part of Veterans for Freedom. It has nothing to do with Chris Sky.
After being pressed, Sheard acknowledged he was “part of what was going on that day”, but insisted there was no relationship between him and Saccoccia. Sheard eventually declared that Saccoccia had freedom of speech.
“Free speech in this country, my friend. That’s why veterans died, so he can say what he wants and you can say what you want,” Sheard said.
Ottawa police say they are ready for the weekend. Interim Chief Steve Bell warned attendees that they would be held accountable if they broke the law.
“I want to be clear with organizers and attendees: you will be held accountable for your actions before, during and after the events,” Bell said.
Echoing Bell’s comment, a statement from Sheard on behalf of “Rolling Thunder” said all participants are urged to obey the law and report any illegal actions to the police.
“The RCMP, Ontario Provincial Police and municipal police services will be held accountable in court for their actions before, during and after the events,” the statement said.