Motorcycles rumble through the Canadian capital under the eyes of police

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OTTAWA – Motorcycles rumbled through the streets of Canada’s capital on Saturday, while a strong police presence kept a close eye on a few rallies during the “Rolling Thunder” protest.

Many of the protesters involved in a morning service at the National War Memorial and a later meeting on Parliament Hill were also involved in the “Freedom Convoy” that closed downtown Ottawa for several weeks in February.

Police made a handful of arrests Saturday, including a driver who allegedly tried to jump onto a sidewalk to get around officers. Police arrested the person for dangerous driving and found him in violation of their bail conditions related to the previous protest when they were ordered not to return to Ottawa.

The Ottawa By-law and Regulatory Services said more than 560 tickets have been issued for parking violations, smoking, noise and nuisance by a highway, and 39 vehicles have been towed since Friday morning.

Hundreds of protesters gathered at the National War Memorial, which was a focal point during the early days of the February protests.

Supporters saw retired Afghanistan veteran Christopher Deering lay a wreath at the unknown soldier’s grave in an almost memorial ceremony.

Other speakers expressed their opposition to vaccine mandates, COVID-19 restrictions and the government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Supporters were asked to remove slogans with exclamations aimed at the Prime Minister of the event.

A small group of counter-protesters gathered across the street from the memorial and shouted “go home” against the protesters.

Police formed a line between the two groups to maintain peace.

At the conclusion of the service, the crowd marched down Elgin Street to greet a convoy of about 150 motorcycles riding on a route outlined by police.

Police stopped the motorcycle convoy two blocks from the National War Memorial, causing motorcyclists to travel back out of the core on a designated route.

Later, protesters gathered on Parliament Hill. Some danced in the street in front of the parliament and shouted “freedom!”

The February protest lasted for three weeks as large rigs and other trucks lined up in front of Parliament Hill, setting up camps blocking traffic. The federal government relied on the emergency law in an attempt to oust them and similar protesters who blocked border crossings.

This weekend, Ottawa police called in more than 800 reinforcements from the RCMP and other police services, which blocked highway exits and each street into the core to prevent a new camp from forming.

Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson said police took “a strong stance” to prevent the kind of protracted demonstration that gripped Ottawa in February.

Saturday’s events were relatively peaceful compared to an altercation between police and protesters on Friday night, in which officers arrested seven people and faced what they described as an “aggressive crowd” just outside the parliamentary area.

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