Rolling Thunder journey leaves Windsor Friday for occasion in Ottawa

One of the organizers of a motorcycle event in Ottawa this weekend urges participants to be peaceful but warns it will be a “free for all” if Ottawa Police don’t allow vehicles downtown.

Neil Sheard posted a video on YouTube on Sunday insisting the event would be peaceful. A message on the Rolling Thunder Ottawa Official Facebook page said the ride, which starts in Windsor on Friday morning, is not a protest but “simply an event to celebrate our freedoms and lay a wreath at the memorial,” referring to the National War Memorial on Parliament Hill.

Some organizations in Ottawa have expressed fear the event has connections to previous Freedom Convoy protests.

Community Solidarity Ottawa issued a statement to the media earlier this week saying, “Rolling Thunder Ottawa is not a bike rally in support of veterans. It is a thinly disguised extension of February’s anti-democratic, month-long ‘Freedom Convoy’ occupation of Ottawa that threatened and harassed residents, blocked streets and blanketed the city with dangerous levels of noise and pollution.”

The ride will leave from 4040 County Road 46, the Husky Station, at 8 am Friday and proceed to London. It should arrive at the Flying J Travel Center in London by 9:30 am and depart at 10 am, arriving in Ottawa that evening.

Windsor Police are aware of the event.

“While we can’t discuss our operational plans at this time, we would like to emphasize is that our priorities are to ensure public safety and to keep the peace,” said Constable Darius Goze. “The Windsor Police Service respects the rights of our citizens to exercise their freedom of expression and peaceful assembly. At the same time, the general public, road users, residents and businesses also have the right to a safe community and a safe environment.”

On Monday, the Ottawa Police Service stated it “has developed an enhanced operational approach to manage the Rolling Thunder event — along with any impacts from the arrival of participants on April 29.”

While the statement said it will respect lawful and peaceful demonstration, it will not “allow for unsafe or unlawful conditions that could lead to another unlawful protest as seen in February.”

The statement referred to the three-week protest in downtown Ottawa that prompted Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to invoke the Emergencies Act. It gave police special powers to clear the protesters in Ottawa and in front of the Ambassador Bridge in Windsor. A public inquiry into the use of the Act is underway, and Ontario Court of Appeal Justice Paul Rouleau should release a report no later than next February.

The plan includes vehicle exclusion zones. Protesters will be allowed on Parliament Hill, but they will have to park their vehicles off-site.

“As a result of the unlawful protest, the City of Ottawa’s position is that no motor vehicle protests, rallies, or events will be allowed in the designated downtown core areas. The Ottawa Police is supporting and enforcing that decision. This includes areas near Parliament Hill and the National War Memorial,” police said.

There will also be a larger police presence than in February, and police will monitor online commentary. Any threatening or intimidating behavior will be investigated and subject to charges where warranted. The Hate Crime Unit will be in place, and police said they would be in contact with the Crown Attorney.

“Now you’ve taken that little bit of control, that quasi control that we could have had to guide the motorcycles, and now, it’s going to be a free for all,” Sheard said on Sunday. “It’s going to be a safety issue, Mr Mayor [Jim Watson] — The onus is on you. I can’t just say, snap my fingers and say, ‘guys go away. Bikers do whatever you want.’ They’re big boys and girls.” reached out to Brandon Medd, believed to be organizing the ride’s departure from Windsor. As of publication, Medd had not responded.

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