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Protesters arrested as ‘Rolling Thunder’ biker convoy arrives in downtown Ottawa

People gather on Wellington Street in front of Parliament Hill

Ottawa police say officers moved in to clear an “aggressive crowd” off Rideau Street in Ottawa’s downtown core Friday evening, as demonstrators, motorcycles and vehicles blocked the streets on the opening night of the “Rolling Thunder” biker rally.

The sounds of motorcycle engines and sporadic chants of freedom filled the air of the Parliamentary Precinct in the late afternoon. Just after 7 p.m., a large crowd of people, some carrying Canadian flags, marched from Parliament Hill to the intersection of Rideau Street and Sussex Drive, blocking the road to all traffic.

“Due to an escalation of crowd aggression, officers are deployed in helmets and shields for their protection in order to clear the crowd at Rideau and Sussex,” Ottawa police said on Twitter. Lines of officers from Ottawa police, the OPP and RCMP were seen moving into the area to disperse of the crowd.

Ottawa police say officers moved in to clear an “aggressive crowd” off Rideau Street in Ottawa’s downtown core Friday evening, as demonstrators, motorcycles and vehicles blocked the streets on the opening night of the “Rolling Thunder” biker rally.

The sounds of motorcycle engines and sporadic chants of freedom filled the air of the Parliamentary Precinct in the late afternoon. Just after 7 p.m., a large crowd of people, some carrying Canadian flags, marched from Parliament Hill to the intersection of Rideau Street and Sussex Drive, blocking the road to all traffic.

“Due to an escalation of crowd aggression, officers are deployed in helmets and shields for their protection in order to clear the crowd at Rideau and Sussex,” Ottawa police said on Twitter. Lines of officers from Ottawa police, the OPP and RCMP were seen moving into the area to disperse of the crowd.

Police temporarily closed the exclusion zone in the downtown core to all vehicles, “due to public safety.”

An 18-wheeler truck was parked on Rideau Street outside the Rideau Centre as people danced on the flat bed, while motorcycles were parked in intersections along Rideau Street and Sussex Drive.

Police said late Friday evening that seven people were arrested for various offences, including assaulting police.

“There have been no reported injuries, and police remain in full control of city streets,” police said in a statement, adding three vehicles were towed from the area of Rideau and Sussex.

The only event scheduled on the opening day of the “Rolling Thunder Ottawa” event was a Freedom Fighters Canada rally and march on Parliament Hill at 6 p.m.

The exclusion zone was set up from Waller Street to Bay Street, Wellington Street to the Queensway to prevent vehicles participating in the protest from entering the core. Roads were not closed, and police had said all pedestrian and vehicle traffic could enter and exit the area through the weekend.

Ottawa Police Interim Chief Steve Bell told CTV News at Six that police continued to see motorcycles and vehicles roll into the city.

“We have plans in place to actually manage people that are coming in. We continue to have those plans and we’ll execute them and exercise them,” Bell said Friday evening. “So you may see traffic disruptions, you may see an expanded control zone as we go through the city to make sure that we don’t see a repeat of February.”

The exclusion zone prohibits on-street parking and stopping all weekend due to the protest.

Between 7 a.m. and 4 p.m. Ottawa Bylaw officers had issued 185 tickets and towed 20 vehicles for no-stopping violations in the exclusion zone that covered the Parliament Precinct area and the ByWard Market..

The first of 500 motorcycles and other vehicles expected to arrive in Ottawa this weekend were spotted downtown through the afternoon, while people carrying Canadian flags walked along sidewalks up to Parliament Hill chanting ‘Freedom.”

CTV News reporter Glen McGregor reported dozens of vehicles were in Kaladar on Hwy. 7, ready to join up with Rolling Thunder in the capital. The vehicles were covered in Canadian flags.

Ottawa police said Friday afternoon that it was aware of convoys headed to Ottawa for the event, but warned they will not be allowed downtown. Ontario Provincial Police said there will be temporary exit closures on Hwy. 417 through the weekend due to the protest.

“Please be advised that your convoy will be diverted and you will not be able to stop or remain on area roadways,” Ottawa police said on Twitter.

The organizers of “Rolling Thunder Ottawa” have not said much about the reason for the rally. Neil Sheard told the Evan Solomon Show this week that it’s a “bike rally to help heal and give back that dignity to the (National War Memorial) that was desecrated by the powers that be.”

Rolling Thunder said on its website earlier this week it does not “support blockades, obstruction of police performing their duties, damage to property, or hate and vitriol directed to the residents of Ottawa.”

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