'Rolling Thunder Ottawa' event wraps up with bikers' church service

Parliament Hill, the National War Memorial and the streets of downtown Ottawa were quiet Sunday evening as the “Rolling Thunder” biker event rolled out of town.

Police officers continued to monitor “controlled access” points throughout the exclusion zone and walked the streets of the Parliamentary Precinct and ByWard Market, but there was no sign of the protest that took place Friday night and Saturday.

“See you next time!” said a message on the “Rolling Thunder Ottawa” website.

Ten people have been arrested during the three-day event in downtown Ottawa, including seven on Friday night when protesters blocked the intersection of Rideau Street and Sussex Drive. Bylaw Services officers issued 889 parking tickets and 45 vehicles were towed from the downtown exclusion zone.

The city of Ottawa says the no-stopping/no-parking zones in the downtown core will remain in place until Monday, when staff will begin to “gradually remove all of the no-stopping and no-parking signs.”

Ottawa City Hall will reopen on Monday.

The weekend's events saw hundreds of people attend a Freedom Fighters Canada memorial service at the National War Memorial, a motorcycle convoy through the downtown and two rallies on Parliament Hill.

 “The situation this weekend was significantly better for our residents and our small businesses than, obviously, the truck convoy back in February, but it still was disruptive,” Mayor Jim Watson told CTV News Sunday afternoon, adding participants began leaving the city Saturday night and Sunday morning.

“It disrupted people coming and going to restaurants, businesses on certain streets but I believe the police did an excellent job of containing the situation.”

Hundreds of people packed a church in Ottawa’s Vanier neighbourhood for a “bikers’ church service” Sunday morning, the final scheduled event of the weekend. The service at the Capital City Bikers’ Church on Carillon Street was held just hours after Ottawa police launched a “hate-motivated mischief” investigation into graffiti spray-painted on the church’s walls.

“We are excited you are joining us today,” Pastor Rob McKee told worshippers at the start of the service.

McKee didn’t specifically mention the graffiti on the wall during the hour-long service, and described the day as “church as usual.”

There have been no reports of injuries or property damage in the downtown core during the weekend's event.

Watson praised the “no-nonsense approach” taken by police and bylaw with exclusion zones and closing highway off-ramps for controlling the situation this weekend.

“They’ve made their point, it’s time to move on but our police are not going to let down their guard,” Watson said, adding police have a plan in place in the event some participants stay longer.

“If they see potential for this extending, they will extend the police barricades to ensure that the residential communities in Ottawa and those people that suffered the most during the truck convoy are given some peace of mind that there is a police presence in their neighbourhood to avoid the kind of chaos we saw a few months ago.”

Interim Chief Steve Bell said police continued to gather information and intelligence around the plans for the weekend.

“What I can tell you is our operation isn’t completed, we will continue to be in and around the area … the remainder of the weekend,” Bell told CTV News Ottawa Saturday night.

“Like last time, we’re going to say that our operation won’t be done until everyone has left from our area."

'Controlled access' points remain in place through the downtown core on Sunday, with officers set up at many intersections around the exclusion zone. Traffic was allowed to move through the area, but no-parking and no-stopping rules remain in effect.

"A major goal of our efforts will be to support and protect the CN Cycle for CHEO," police said in a statement Saturday evening. No issues were reported during the fundraising event on Sunday, with $1.4 million raised for cancer care and research at CHEO.

Police believe the increased police presence in downtown Ottawa this weekend has stopped many people from joining the event.

“Several convoys and groups had been spotted outside of the city. Our intelligence gathering indicates that many convoys have chosen not to come to Ottawa based on the police operational posture,” police said.

Hundreds of people attended a Freedom Fighters Canada memorial service at the National War Memorial Saturday morning, with participants vowing to reclaim the memorial after it was fenced off by police during the “Freedom Convoy” protest in January. Police fenced off the memorial after the desecration of the monument.

More than 350 motorcycles participated in a biker convoy from Ottawa’s east end to the downtown, and hundreds attended a rally on Parliament Hill and a march through the Centretown neighbourhood to protest COVID-19 vaccine mandates and other public health restrictions.

Officers from Ottawa police, the OPP, RCMP and municipal police forces, including York Regional Police and the Toronto Police Service, were deployed throughout the weekend.

“From what we’re hearing from our community is they're happy with our police response,” Bell said.

“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.”

Ten people arrested

Ten people have been arrested during the “Rolling Thunder Ottawa” event.

One woman was arrested for assaulting police on Elgin Street Saturday afternoon, police said. One man was arrested for breaching bail conditions stemming from the February occupation in the downtown core.

A male driver was also arrested after rushing an OPP motorcycle at a checkpoint in the downtown core on Saturday, according to police.

“The man, who was on conditions stemming from the February occupation, is facing several charges, including breaching release conditions, dangerous driving, refusal to provide a sample, assault on a peace officer and assault with a weapon,” police said in a statement Saturday evening.

Dozens of vehicles towed

Ottawa Bylaw and Regulatory Services says 891 tickets have been issued for violating the no-parking/no-stopping zones in the exclusion zone since Friday morning.

Forty-five vehicles have been towed this weekend in the area of Waller Street to Bay Street and Wellington Street to Laurier Avenue.

Ten other bylaw tickets have been issued for noise violations, smoking, public urination, encumbering the highway and misuse of accessible permit, bylaw said

Ottawa will send the policing bill to the federal government

The policing price tag for the ‘Freedom Convoy’ event in Ottawa in January and February was $36 million.

Mayor Jim Watson says the final bill for this protest won’t be that high, but Ottawa taxpayers still shouldn’t pay it.

“So we’re looking in the millions, not the hundreds of thousands but the millions,” Watson said Saturday evening.

“I spoke with the Public Safety Minister federally just a few days ago to let him know that we would be counting once again on the federal government to provide the funding. It shouldn’t be the Ottawa taxpayers that are funding for this kind of event that is happening in our backyard.

“I keep telling people there are two different Ottawa’s – there’s official Ottawa, Parliament Hill, but there’s the Ottawa that’s made up of communities.”

With files from The Canadian Press