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'Rolling Thunder' organizer pledges peaceful demonstration but won't speak to controversial guest

The organizer of the coming “Rolling Thunder” bike convoy to Ottawa is promising a peaceful event this weekend, as possibly more than a thousand people arrive for a multi-day rally.

Speaking on Newstalk 580 CFRA’s The Evan Solomon Show, organizer Neil Sheard said the event is meant to “take back” the National War Memorial.

“This is a bike rally to help heal and give back that dignity to that monument that was desecrated by the powers that be,” he said.

Sheard said the erection of fencing around the National War Memorial during the “Freedom Convoy” occupation in January and February was a “desecration” of the monument. The fences went up following video of a woman jumping on top of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in the first weekend of the convoy protest and, later, urine in the snow on the monument.

Sheard said the woman who jumped on the tomb was quickly shouted down and he believed dogs were responsible for the urine stains.

“We were guarding it,” he said, of veterans who stood watch at the monument as the occupation dragged on. “Then, the powers that be decided to come in and physically remove veterans off sacred ground.”

Police officers, empowered by the Emergencies Act, moved on Feb. 18 and 19 to evict convoy protesters and others from their entrenched positions within the downtown core, including at the National War Memorial. This came three weeks after the first demonstrators arrived and began parking large vehicles along Wellington Street and throughout the core. The operation led to scores of arrests and dozens of vehicles were impounded. Wellington Street in front of Parliament remains closed to vehicles.

Ottawa police are prohibiting vehicles in an area of the downtown core this weekend. Sheard said the group has a route planned for their rally.

The motor vehicle exclusion zone, as outlined by the City of Ottawa, for the 'Rolling Thunder' motorcycle rally on April 29-May 1. (City of Ottawa)

“We’ve been working with the city, we worked with the police, and we now have a route, and it’s all settled,” he said. “We’re not going around the monument. We are still going to do a drive-by. We’re going to keep the bikes under control, bring ‘em in, do a little bit of a salute with the bikes driving by down Mackenzie, across the bridge at Mackenzie, back down onto Rideau and then push out the city.”

According to an itinerary posted on the “Rolling Thunder” website, there will be a rally and march on Parliament Hill on Friday at 6 p.m. Bikers will muster at the St. Laurent Shopping Centre at 9 a.m. Saturday. At 10 a.m., there will be Veterans for Freedom service at the National War Memorial. Bikers will roll through the city between 11 a.m. and 12 p.m. A second rally on Parliament Hill is planned for 2 p.m. and then a bike show is scheduled for 6 p.m., with a location to be determined. They will attend the Capital City Bikers’ Church in Vanier on Sunday morning.

In response to concerns about noise, which was omnipresent during the “Freedom Convoy” occupation, Sheard said there would be no bikes running at night.

“They’re coming in, do the run, go for a drive, and then they’re done,” he said. “Some will stay in the city to stay overnight to go shopping in your beautiful city. Some will go home.”


When pressed about the presence of notorious far-right figure Chris “Sky” Saccoccia on the itinerary, Sheard claimed he was not involved in the event.

“He has nothing to do with this,” Sheard said. “He’s not a feature in this. He’s got nothing to do with this.”

The “Rolling Thunder” website’s schedule says on April 30 there will be a rally and march at Parliament Hill with “special guest speaker Chris Sky.” He is the only person named on the itinerary.

Sheard, who insisted the event is “purely about veterans” told Solomon that Saccoccia would not be speaking at the National War Memorial, but he “may be off somewhere else speaking” on Saturday.

“He is not part of what is happening on the monument,” Sheard said.

Saccoccia has been a prominent figure in protests against COVID-19 mandates. He’s been arrested in Winnipeg and Thunder Bay for violating public health orders and was charged in Toronto with uttering death threats, assaulting a peace officer and dangerous operation of a conveyance in 2021.

The Canadian Anti-Hate Network has also documented that Saccoccia has a history of bigoted comments, including Holocaust denial, racism and homophobia.

Sheard insisted Saccoccia is not involved in the rally for veterans.

“Chris Sky has nothing to do with what’s happening on the veterans’ side,” he said. “There’s a list of the things that will be happening on that day. He is not a special guest of us. He’s not part of Veterans for Freedom. This has nothing to do with Chris Sky.”

After being pressed, Sheard acknowledged he is “part of what is happening that day” but insisted there is no relationship between him and Saccoccia. Sheard eventually said Saccoccia has freedom of speech.

“Free speech in this country, my friend. That’s why veterans died, so he can say what he wants and you can say what you want,” Sheard said.

Ottawa police say they are prepared for the weekend. Interim Chief Steve Bell warned participants that they would held accountable if they broke the law.

"I want to be clear with both organizers and participants: you will be held accountable for your actions before, during, and after the events," Bell said.

Echoing Bell’s comment, a statement from Sheard on behalf of “Rolling Thunder” said all participants are urged to follow the law and to report any unlawful action to police.

“RCMP, OPP and municipal police services will be held accountable in the court of law for their actions before, during and after events,” the statement said. 


Sheard further distanced himself from Saccoccia in a YouTube video on Wednesday. 

“We are not connected to the freedom fighters’ event on the Hill, although we do support any group that wants to fight for freedom of all Canadians,” Sheard said.

“The freedom of speech event is going to be interesting. It’s not affiliated with Rolling Thunder, as in the Rolling Thunder—our event. So, let’s make this clear, okay? Our event is all about the monument, it’s all about the veterans, it’s all about the bikes. Freedom Fighters of Canada are having another event up the street on Parliament Hill. And we’re not affiliated with Chris Sky. He can say what he wants because veterans gave him the right of free speech.”

The itinerary on was changed Wednesday to reflect that the rally and march on Parliament Hill was a "Freedom Fighters Canada" event, as opposed to the "Veterans for Freedom" event at the National War Memorial earlier in the day. A cached version of the page shows the original itinerary only said "Rally and march on Parliament Hill with special guest speaker: Chris Sky" but the amended version now says "FFC rally and march on Parliament Hill with special guest Chris Sky." The planned 6 p.m. rally and march on the Hill on Friday was also amended to add "FFC". 

Freedom Fighters Canada describes itself as a "non-profit organization that is demanding the end of all government mandates." Its website lists the organization's address as a P.O. box in a post office on Bank Street in Ottawa. Top Stories

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