Ottawa’s police chief has vowed to stop an upcoming biker rally from reaching the city’s downtown core as residents brace for a potential rerun of the so-called “Freedom Convoy” anti-government protests that paralyzed the Canadian capital earlier in the year.
Thousands of bikers are expected to arrive in Ottawa on Friday for the “Rolling Thunder” rally purportedly called in honour of military veterans.
The rally’s organizer, Neil Sheard, has denied that the event is a protest, but prominent anti-vaccine figure Chris Sky has been advertised as a “special guest” speaker, and Veterans for Freedom, a group which opposes public health measures, is also part of the event.
Organizers had planned to march on Parliament Hill on Friday and then meet at the war memorial the following day. But the interim chief, Steve Bell, warned that a “heavy police presence” and road closures would instead greet the bikers.
“We will not allow for unsafe or unlawful conditions that could lead to another protest, as seen in February,” Bell told the police services board on Monday. Bell said there was so far no indication the Rolling Thunder rally would become a sustained occupation like the trucker protests, but acknowledged things could change quickly. “I want to be clear with both organizers and participants: you will be held accountable for your actions before, during and after the events.”