Police brace for ‘Rolling Thunder’ to convey lots of of bikes to Ottawa’s core

OTTAWA — Police as soon as once more confronted off in opposition to the protesters behind the “Freedom Convoy” in Canada’s capital metropolis Friday sporting helmets and shields as big-rig vans tried to make their strategy to Parliament Hill.

Protesters arrived Friday afternoon as a part of the “Rolling Thunder” rally, organized by Freedom Fighters Canada, a bunch devoted to talking out in opposition to COVID-19 mandates.

Many of the protesters had been additionally a part of the three-week demonstration that gridlocked Ottawa’s downtown with massive rigs, prompting the federal authorities to invoke the Emergencies Act for the primary time, and ended after lots of of law enforcement officials moved in to disperse the crowds, making dozens of arrests.

Before protesters arrived Friday, Ottawa police vowed this protest can be totally different, and that protesters wouldn’t be allowed to get a foothold for a protracted occupation this time. 

They referred to as in additional than 800 reinforcements from the RCMP, Ontario Provincial Police and regional police providers to protect each main downtown intersection and forestall protesters from bringing automobiles into the core. 

It began calmly sufficient, with acquainted shouts of “Freedom!” as protesters mingled and danced on Wellington Street, the primary drive in entrance of Parliament Hill. Protesters additionally marched by way of the ByWard Market with a police escort. 

But early Friday night, police warned of a giant convoy making an attempt to make their manner into town. Soon, protesters had been crowded round massive vans and campers simply exterior the parliamentary precinct. 

Protesters yelled “Hold the line,” making an attempt to push law enforcement officials away from the automobiles. Police progressively pushed the crowds away from the vans and again towards Parliament Hill as protesters referred to as them “traitors.”

The “Rolling Thunder” group had not initially been clear in regards to the trigger they’re rallying for, besides to say they’d “peacefully celebrate our freedom,” they usually oppose the removing of veterans from the National War Memorial through the “Freedom Convoy.”

However, many faces within the crowd belonged to protesters from the “Freedom Convoy” months earlier. 

Angela Manella from North Bay, Ont., mentioned she was within the nationwide capital to protest the vaccine mandates in February, and she or he’s returned as a result of the mandates are nonetheless in place.

“My experience of the convoy protest was that there was so much love and connection and just such good energy,” Manella mentioned Friday subsequent to the Centennial Flame.

“I want to continue that energy and that momentum to continue to stand up for all of us.”

She mentioned there was a way of group amongst protesters on the convoy in February, and which may be half of what’s drawing individuals collectively once more.

Others who gathered close to the War Memorial mentioned they’re solely in Ottawa this weekend to honour veterans who police faraway from the positioning together with the remainder of the protesters in February.

“It’s mostly like a parade to honour them for what they have done, they stood up for the right causes,” mentioned a protester in a black leather-based vest who would solely establish himself as Mario.

The rally Friday evening is anticipated to be adopted by a convoy of lots of of bikes by way of downtown Saturday, with a cease on the War Memorial and one other rally on Parliament Hill.

Vehicles will not be allowed right into a zone that features the battle monument and Parliament, police say, nor will they be allowed to cease alongside the route, however contributors can stroll by way of the realm.

It’s additionally an opportunity for Ottawa’s police drive to win again the belief and respect of the group, after coming beneath heavy criticism through the February protest for permitting it to go on so lengthy earlier than taking motion.

For greater than three weeks, protesters created encampments in downtown streets, which had been full of massive rigs adorned with messages talking out in opposition to vaccine mandates, COVID-19 restrictions and the prime minister.

“I think we’re going to have to wait and see. The Ottawa police lost a lot of trust last time. So this weekend is going to be a real test for them,” mentioned Brian Latour, one of many organizers of a counter-protest in Ottawa. 

Some close by residents keep in mind the final protest as a nightmare — one they do not wish to relive. 

“A lot of them are concerned, some are scared and some are mad,” mentioned Mary Huang, president of the Centretown Community Association, which represents the neighbourhood closest to Parliament Hill. 

She mentioned neighbours are nonetheless traumatized after the protest. The loud airhorns droning on in any respect hours of the evening meant that many could not sleep, and a few individuals felt intimidated once they left their houses, she mentioned.  

They’re nervous this weekend might be a repeat, earlier than residents have even had an opportunity to get better, she mentioned.

Ottawa police have promised they will not permit one other “illegal occupation” of town, that there might be no tolerance for a long-term protest and any encampments might be dismantled.

By 4 p.m. Friday, metropolis bylaw officers mentioned they’d issued 185 tickets and towed 20 automobiles associated to the rally. 

A press release on the “Rolling Thunder” web site attributed to organizer Neil Sheard says the protesters plan to depart on Sunday, and they don’t help “blockades, obstruction of police performing their duties, damage to property or hate and vitriol directed to the residents of Ottawa.”

The assertion additionally encourages supporters to observe the legal guidelines, and says police might be held accountable in courtroom for his or her actions through the occasion.

“Lastly, as seen during the lawful protest in Ottawa, spread as much peace, love and patriotism to your fellow Canadians as possible,” the assertion says.

This report by The Canadian Press was first revealed April 29, 2022.

Laura Osman, Sarah Ritchie and Erika Ibrahim, The Canadian Press

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