Canada’s capital braces for biker convoy, fearing repeat of trucker protest

April 29 (Reuters) – Canada’s capital is bracing for hundreds of motorcyclists to parade through town this weekend in a protest broadly against government overreach, less than three months after police arrested dozens of protesters who blocked the downtown core near parliament for several weeks.

Organizers of the convoy, which they call “Rolling Thunder Ottawa,” say it is in support of “freedom” and military veterans, but local media say several of the participants were in Ottawa during the previous protest, which was against a vaccine mandate for cross border truckers.

In February, the government of Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was forced to invoke seldom-used emergency powers to clear Ottawa. At the time, protesters also had blocked key border crossings to the United States. read more

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This time around, Ottawa police say they will allow no motor vehicles to stop or park on downtown streets, and additional personnel have been brought in to bolster municipal authorities.

The three-week protest earlier this year left businesses with tens of millions of dollars in lost sales and taxpayers with the cleanup costs. read more

“The right to lawful and peaceful demonstrations and events will always be protected by our Service,” Ottawa police said on Twitter, but added that the display of “symbols of hate like swastikas will result in charges”.

A former member of the Canadian Armed Forces, Neil Sheard, is one of the protest’s main organizers.

In a video posted to YouTube, Sheard said his plan is to lay a wreath at the National War Memorial in a show of respect for veterans. Other groups that are participating are protesting more generally against the government and government mandates.

Sheard said he supports any group that wants to fight for the freedom of all Canadians, because in his view, freedom of speech was paid for by veterans.

“The rights and freedoms of Canadians are eroding, and we are going to work to sustain lawful, civic action in order to restore those fundamental rights,” Andrew MacGillivray, a member of the Freedom Fighters Canada group that is also participating, told Reuters recently .

The events begin on Friday at 6 pm EDT (2200 GMT), with the biker convoy on Saturday morning. It’s due to end on Sunday.

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Reporting by Jenna Zucker in Toronto, Additional reporting by Anna Mehler Paperny in Toronto Editing by Steve Scherer and Matthew Lewis

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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