Ottawa’s interim police chief has shared the full route for the ‘Rolling Thunder’ motorcycle ride on Saturday, one of a series of demonstrations expected in the capital this weekend.
About 500 motorcycles are expected to roll into town starting Friday for a series of events that are reminiscent of the ‘Freedom Convoy’ protest in February.
The ride on Saturday will leave St. Laurent Shopping Centre around 10:45 a.m. and snake through downtown, leaving via Highway 417. The entire route has been designated as a no-stopping zone, Interim Chief Steve Bell told reporters Thursday.
Events associated with ‘Rolling Thunder’ are planned Friday through Sunday, and police are vowing the event won’t be a repeat of the three-week occupation of the downtown core earlier this year.
“There is a community expectation that we do handle this differently, that we are more responsive and more proactive in making sure that it doesn’t become elongated,” Bell told CTV News at Noon on Thursday. “We’re doing that.”
Residents are being told to expect to see an increased police presence in the downtown and ByWard Market areas, while an exclusionary zone will be set up stopping any motor vehicles involved in a rally, protest or demonstration from entering.
The 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.
However, roads are not closing. Police said roads will remain open for residential and business traffic, pedestrians, cyclists and OC Transpo. Police are still encouraging people to visit downtown businesses.
“City barricades, heavy equipment, police officers and police vehicles will be at various controlled access points surrounding the vehicle exclusion zones to filter lawful traffic onto and in and around those streets,” Bell said.
.RCMP and OPP officers will be deployed in Ottawa, along with officers from municipal police forces.
Ottawa police have shared the full planned route for the ‘Rolling Thunder’ motorcycle ride on Saturday.
Full ride route revealed
The biker convoy is scheduled to arrive on Friday, with a rally and march scheduled for Parliament Hill at 6 p.m.
The majority of the events are set for Saturday, including a “Veterans For Freedom” service at the National War Memorial and a rally and march on Parliament Hill.
Bell said motorcyclists plan to gather at an unspecified area on Coventry Road Saturday morning for a ride through the city. They plan to leave there around 10:45 a.m., riding north along the Vanier Parkway, turning onto Montreal Road and merging onto Rideau Street.
They will then turn south onto Waller Street and then head onto the Mackenzie King Bridge. After crossing the bridge they will turn south on Elgin Street and then east on Laurier Avenue West. Finally, they will turn onto Nicholas Street and merge onto Highway 417.
That route takes them within a couple of blocks of the National War Memorial, a focal point for the demonstrators where some will already be gathering on foot. But vehicles won’t be allowed to park there.
The entire route has been designated as a no-stopping zone. Officers will be along the route directing traffic and ensuring the bikers “safely and expeditiously leave the area with as little impact as possible on residents,” Bell said.
Bell said police also have a plan in place in the event that people don’t follow their directions to move along.
He did not specify the location on Coventry Road where bikers plan to gather.
“We aren’t engaging in any sort of coordination of the event. The information that we have is that organizers are planning to muster in and around that area,” he said.
But messages on social media say the bikers are planning to muster at the St. Laurent Shopping Centre.
CTV News reached out to Morguard, which owns the mall, for comment on the possibility of bikers mustering there.
“Providing a safe and enjoyable shopping experience for our guests is our main priority,” a spokesperson said in response. “St. Laurent Shopping Centre is open to customers this weekend.”
During the February protests, demonstrators set up a long-term encampment at the baseball stadium on Coventry Road. Bell said police would work to ensure that doesn’t happen again.
“We’re not going to tolerate any sort of unlawful activity that indicates any sort of longer-term occupation of any area of our city,” he said. “We will be very responsive and very proactive in identifying and dismantling any sort of circumstances like that.”
Mayor ‘much more confident’
Bell said the February occupation of downtown changed community expectations for how police handle protests moving forward. Ottawa deals with hundreds of protests in a given year, but the occupation shifted police response, he said.
“What you’re seeing is us take a much more proactive stance in terms of how we manage people in and around that downtown core,” he said.
“We do know there’s been a fracture in trust between our community and the police service as an outcome of the occupation in February,” Bell said, adding that police have been focused on developing a plan that takes community concerns into account.
“We believe that’s what we’ve developed,” he said. “Our hope is that…we start to rebuild that trust with our community, because it’s vitally important to us.”
In parts of downtown not covered by the exclusionary zone where protest vehicles won’t be allowed, there will be some no parking and no stopping restrictions, as well as an increased police presence to reassure residents, Bell said.
Mayor Jim Watson said Thursday he feels much more confident in the police and city’s planned response for this protest.
“I feel much more confident today with the plan in place, and the preparatory work that’s been undertaken by the police and our different departments to help slowly but surely regain the confidence of the public that when these kinds of events happen on a go-forward basis—and they will—we’re better prepared to deal with it.”