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Heavy police presence as hundreds gather in Ottawa for day 2 of 'Rolling Thunder'

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Hundreds of people on motorcycles and on foot rolled into downtown Ottawa on day 2 of the ‘Rolling Thunder’ biker event, with a strong police presence deployed to keep an eye on the protesters.

“The bikes are coming and we’re going to take back this monument,” organizer Neal Sheard said during a service at the National War Memorial to kick off the day’s events.

Officers on foot and on motorcycles were deployed inside the so-called exclusion zone and along the route for a motorcycle convoy for the event.  Ten people have been arrested so far this weekend, while Ottawa Bylaw and Regulatory Services has issued more than 560 tickets for no-parking/no-stopping violations in the exclusion zone.

Three people were arrested on Saturday, according to police.

"One woman was arrested for assaulting police on Elgin St. midday. A man was arrested (Saturday) afternoon for breaching conditions stemming from the February occupation," police said.

Police said a driver was arrested after rushing an OPP motorcycle at a checkpoint in the exclusion zone.

"The man, who was released on conditions stemming from the February occupation, is facing several charges."

Interim Police Chief Steve Bell told CTV News at Six that he feels police have done a “fairly good job” managing the event.

“Part of the thing that would be very important for me is how our citizens rate success. We heard loud and clear from our community that they were tired of these in our city and there wasn’t tolerance for a repeat of what happened in February,” Bell said Saturday evening.

“From what we’re hearing from our community is they're happy with our police response. They would prefer these don’t happen, but they understand that people will come to our city and they expect their police service to actually manage it, and I believe we’ve done a fairly good job in that over the weekend.”

All roads are open in the downtown core, with police monitoring intersections through the exclusion zone.

In a statement late Saturday evening, police said several convoys and groups had been spotted outside the city.

"Our intelligence gathering indicates that many convoys have chosen not to come to Ottawa based on the police operational posture," police said.

Police say "controlled access" will be in place in the downtown area on Sunday.

"A major goal of our efforts will be to support and protect the CN Cycle for CHEO."

Veterans for Freedom hosted a memorial service at the National War Memorial at 10 a.m., followed by a motorcycle convoy of more than 400 bikes rolling into the downtown core. The motorcycles roared up Elgin Street to Albert Street as supporters lined the street waiving Canadian flags.

The exclusion zone set up around the Parliamentary Precinct prevented motorcycles and other vehicles participating in the protest from driving around the National War Memorial.

 “Fear and division equals hate. We may disagree with each other, but we don’t hate each other,” Sheard said.

Participants gather at the National War Memorial during a demonstration, part of a convoy-style protest participants are calling "Rolling Thunder", in Ottawa, Saturday, April 30, 2022. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick)

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.

Sheard said the National War Memorial honours those who sacrificed for this country.

“Today you are here sacrificing your time, this monument is turning that into time,” Sheard said.

“The truckers sacrificed, these men sacrificed, these people came here and sacrificed. They spent money to come here, they sacrificed. This is the sort of sacrifice we’re asking for because Canadians need to sacrifice to keep our freedom.”

The 'Rolling Thunder Ottawa' website does not outline its purpose or goals for the weekend event, but says participants should “spread as much peace, love and patriotism to your fellow Canadians as possible.”

During the one hour of speeches at the 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,” Alex said as the crowd booed and yelled "shame."

“It was, I had no words. We got after it and it came down.”

Fences were erected at the war memorial after a woman stood on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in January.

Speakers at the event denounced the COVID-19 vaccine mandates and public health measures, the mainstream media and expressed opposition to the federal government.

Chris told the crowd that the ceremony will return to the National War Memorial to all Canadians.

“This will allow us to give back the dignity to our fallen that was unfairly taken away from us, and not just the veterans, all Canadians deserve access to pay their proper respects whenever they’re able to,” Chris said.

Tom added, “That’s why we’re here today, to return the respect to this memorial and that is something that’s earned. Every single one of you out here today are the fighters, you guys are all lions and it’s our job to wake up the rest of the world and turn them into lions.”

Hundreds of people attended a rally on Parliament Hill Saturday afternoon, before marching up Bank Street to Gladstone Avenue, and then returning to the hill along Elgin Street.  Speakers at the rally included notorious far-right figure Chris Sky. Sky has been a prominent figure at protests against COVID-19 mandates.

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."

Mayor Jim Watson told CTV News at Six he had spoken with councillors Mathieu Fleury and Catherine McKenney, and they were pleased with the police response to the protest so far this weekend.

“They seem to think things are going relatively well in their wards, the exclusionary zones are working well,” Watson said.

“People are free to come and protest, but they can’t do what they did in February and act irresponsibly, frighten our residents, hurt our small businesses and that’s why I’m impressed Chief Bell and his team are taking a no-nonsense approach, they have a very strong presence of police officers.”

More than 200 motorcycles take part in a convoy along Elgin Street in downtown Ottawa on Saturday. (Aaron Reid/CTV News Ottawa)

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

“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.

Three vehicles were towed from the area of Rideau Street and Sussex Drive on Friday evening.

"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 to be prepared, execute the plans we have to make sure that the city streets remain safe and open for the citizens of Ottawa.”

Arrests on Saturday

Ottawa police told CTV News that 10 people have been arrested since the beginning of the event on Friday. Seven of those people were arrested on Friday evening.

On Twitter, police said the driver of a vehicle was arrested for dangerous driving on Saturday.

“Ignoring police direction at Elgin and Queen, a vehicle drove up on the sidewalk and was intercepted,” police said.

“The driver was arrested for dangerous driving and identified as someone with bail conditions not to enter Ottawa, stemming from charges received during the February occupation.”

Ottawa Bylaw issues hundreds of tickets 

Ottawa Bylaw and Regulatory Services issued 560 tickets to vehicles violating the no-stopping and no-parking zone restrictions between 7 a.m. Friday and 5 p.m. Saturday.

Eight tickets were also issued for noise, smoking and encumbering the highway violations.

“Zero tolerance,” Interim Chief Bell says

Some residents and elected officials have questions about why protest vehicles were able to block Rideau Street Friday evening, despite police promising any vehicle involved in the protest would not be allowed in the exclusion zone.

“It looked clearly like an attempt of reoccupation by vehicles many people have pointed out to me were involved in the February occupation and I was very pleased to see the much stronger police response this time,” Coun. Jeff Leiper said on CFRA.

Leiper, who is a member of the Ottawa Police Services Board, says he has questions about why vehicles were allowed into the area.

“The message from police has been clear – there are no stopping and no parking areas and anyone who does is subject to being towed. They clearly mean it. The vehicles that were stopped on Rideau were towed.”

Bell says police sent a message to protesters planning to occupy the streets.

“People are now, very clear that we have zero tolerance for any occupation of our streets,” Bell said. “We have zero tolerance for any sort of criminal, traffic of bylaw infractions and we will enforce them.”

Several tow trucks were parked through the downtown core Saturday morning to tow any vehicles violating the no-stopping, no-parking rules in the exclusion zone.

People gather at the National War Memorial on day 2 of the 'Rolling Thunder Ottawa' biker rally. (Colton Praill/CTV News Ottawa)

Ottawa police look to idetnfiy a woman on Rideau Street 

Ottawa police said Saturday afternoon that officers had identified a woman in relation to an incident on Rideau Street Friday night.

Police had said officers were dealing with an aggressive crowd on the street during the evening.

No other information about the investigation has been released.

Exclusion zone

Ottawa police and Ottawa Bylaw and Regulatory Services has set up an exclusion zone, with vehicles taking part in a demonstration, event or protest prohibited from entering.

The exclusion zone stretches from Waller Street to Bronson Avenue and Wellington Street to Laurier Avenue, along with the ByWard Market area from MacKenzie Avenue to King Edward Avenue and Rideau Street to Murray Street.

The exclusion zone is also designated as a no-stopping and no-parking zone. Bylaw Services says any vehicles violating the orders will be ticketed and towed.

Will city hall be open?

Ottawa City Hall and its underground parking lot will be closed until 7 a.m. on Monday.

With files from CTV News Ottawa's Natalie van Rooy and Colton Praill, and CP24's Cristina Tenaglia.

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