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Heavy police presence in downtown Ottawa on day 2 of ‘Rolling Thunder’ biker event

Heavy police presence in downtown Ottawa on day 2 of ‘Rolling Thunder’ biker event

Hundreds of people on motorcycles and on foot rolled into downtown Ottawa for day 2 of the ‘Rolling Thunder’ biker event, as a strong police presence kept an eye on the proceedings.

Veterans for Freedom hosted a memorial service at the National War Memorial at 10 a.m., followed by approximately 240 motorcycles participating in a convoy into the downtown core along Elgin Street.

“Fear and division equals hate. We may disagree with each other, but we don’t hate each other,” organizer Neil Sheard told the crowd at the National War Memorial Saturday morning.

Sheard had previously told the Evan Solomon Show this week that the bike rally is being held to “help heal and give back the dignity to that monument that was desecrated by the powers that be”, during the ‘Freedom Convoy’ event in January and February.

During the one hour of speeches at the National War Memorial, one speaker referenced how the Department of National Defence and police fenced off the National War Memorial during the opening weekend of the ‘Freedom Convoy.’

“They literally engaged the national symbol of freedom,” the man said as the crowd booed. “It was, I had no words.”

At the end of the service, the crowd marched down Elgin Street to greet the motorcycle convoy that was travelling on a route outlined by police. Hundreds of people lined the street as approximately 150 motorcycles did several loops of Elgin Street between Laurier and the Albert/Slater section.

Police stopped the motorcycle convoy two blocks from the National War Memorial, and had the motorcyclists travel back out of the core on a designated route. Police announced just before 12 p.m. that the motorcycle rally was complete.

One person was arrested following an incident on Elgin Street during the motorcycle convoy. Police said the investigation is ongoing.

Officers from the Ottawa Police Service, OPP, RCMP and municipal police forces have been deployed across the downtown core to monitor the weekend protest. Interim Chief Steve Bell says residents can expect to see more street closures in the downtown core today.

“We have the plans in place to manage what will occur today. We have the resources on the ground here in Ottawa ready to be utilized if there are issues,” Bell told Newstalk 580 CFRA Saturday morning.

“People can expect to see more restrictions, they can expect to see closed streets and our officers will continue to evaluate, manage and monitor what’s going on so we can keep core area safe and unoccupied.”

The events come after police say officers dealt with an “aggressive crowd” in the area of Rideau Street and Sussex Drive Friday night, outside the Rideau Centre. Hundreds of people marched from Parliament Hill to Rideau Street just after 7 p.m., blocking the street over two hours until police moved in to clear the protesters and several vehicles.

Seven people were arrested for various offences and three vehicles were towed from the street, according to police. Bell says a “number of people” arrested Friday night were related to court-breach probations related to the “Freedom Convoy” protest in February.

Twenty-four vehicles were towed throughout the day in Ottawa, including three from the area of Rideau Street and Sussex Drive.

“There have been no reported injuries, and police remain in full control of city streets,” police said in a statement, adding streets in the exclusion zone were reopened late in the evening.

“Though the week, we indicated that there was going to be no tolerance for that on our streets this weekend; they would no occupation and there would be no tolerance for unlawful or uncivil activities,” Bell said.

“I think that’s what we saw last night and that is what we responded to. We have plans in place, resources in place today to do exactly the same thing. My hope is we don’t need to employ those tactics, but my job isn’t to hope so we’ll continue be prepared, execute the plans we have to make sure that the city streets remain safe and open for the citizens of Ottawa.”

Police have said more than 500 motorcycles and vehicles are expected to participate in the “Rolling Thunder Ottawa” event this weekend. The group hasn’t been clear about the goals of the rallies, but said on its website it will “spread as much peace, love and patriotism to your fellow Canadians as possible.”

One person told CTV News Ottawa’s Natalie van Rooy they drove from Saskatchewan for the “Rolling Thunder Ottawa” event.

“We couldn’t miss it. Me and the guys that came with me, our fathers and grandfathers are veterans,” he said. “These guys are all vets here. It’s all about freedom, it really is. If you go in that crowd, everybody will give you a hug.”

Here is the itinerary for today (according to the Rolling Thunder Ottawa website)

– 09:00 a.m. – Bikers muster at St. Laurent Shopping Centre
– 10:00 a.m. – Veterans for Freedom service at the National War Memorial
– 11:00 a.m. Bikes roll out to the war memorial
– 12:00 p.m. – Bikes leave on routes outside the city
– 02:00 p.m. – Freedom Fighters Canada rally and march at Parliament Hill

Police shared the full route for the ‘Rolling Thunder’ motorcycle ride.

The ride will leave St. Laurent Shopping Centre around 10:45 a.m. and snake through downtown, leaving via Highway 417. The entire route has been designated as a no-stopping zone.

– West on Coventry Road
– North on the Vanier Parkway
– West on Montreal Road
– Merge onto Rideau Street
– South onto Waller Street
– West onto Mackenzie King Bridge
– South on Elgin Street
– East on Laurier Avenue West
– South on Nicholas Street to Highway 417

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