Here’s what you need to know about the ‘Rolling Thunder Ottawa’ biker demonstration

Ottawa police and city officials continue to prepare for the “Rolling Thunder” event arriving in capital this weekend.

More than 500 motorcycles are expected to take part in the demonstration, which will include events on Parliament Hill and at the National War Memorial.

Mayor Jim Watson and Ottawa police interim chief Steve Bell will provide an update to the media at 9:45 a.m. CTVNewsOttawa.ca will carry the news conference live.

Here’s what you need to know about the “Rolling Thunder Ottawa” event this weekend in Ottawa.

What is “Rolling Thunder Ottawa?”

The “Rolling Thunder Ottawa” website offers no information about the group, including the purpose for the event this weekend in Ottawa. Groups listed on the website supporting the event are Veterans for Freedom and Freedom Fighters Canada.

“This is not a demonstration, this is not a protest, this is not a convoy. From the beginning, we’ve been saying that and everybody keeps saying it’s a convoy,” organizer Neil Sheard said. “This is a bike rally to help heal and give back that dignity to that monument that was desecrated by the powers that be.”

Sheard served with the Canadian Armed Forces and did two tours of duty in Afghanistan.

Ottawa police say it’s too early to predict how many people will attend, but organizers say they expect more than 500 motorcycles to participate.

Schedule of events

This is list of events for Rolling Thunder Ottawa, according to the website.

April 29

  • 6 p.m. on Parliament Hill – Freedom Fighters Canada rally and march

April 30

  • 9 a.m. Bikers muster at St. Laurent Shopping Centre
  • 10 a.m. Veterans for Freedom service at the National War Memorial
  • 11 a.m. Bikers roll out to the National War Memorial
  • 12 p.m. Bikers leave on routes outside the city
  • 2 p.m. Freedom Fighters Canada rally and march at Parliament Hill with special guest Chris Sky
  • 6 p.m. bike show, location TBA

May 1

  • 10:30 a.m. – Bikers Church Service – Capital City Bikers Church

What is the route for Saturday’s biker ride?

Ottawa police say organizers plan to hold a motorcycle ride through Ottawa on Saturday afternoon.

The ride will enter and depart using the Nicholas on-ramp to Hwy. 417.

“There will be a heavy police presence monitoring this ride, backed up by tow trucks and physical barriers,” interim chief Steve Bell said, adding police will release the planned route to the public.

What is the exclusion zone?

Ottawa police and Ottawa Bylaw will be setting up a “motor vehicle exclusion zone.”

According to the city of Ottawa, the motor vehicle exclusion zone means, “no motor vehicles involved in any event are permitted inside this zone.”

The exclusion 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.

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)

Will there be police checkpoints?

Ottawa police insist there will be access for pedestrians, cyclists and public transit through the exclusion zones into the downtown and ByWard Market areas, with officers focusing on monitoring vehicle traffic.

Interim Chief Steve Bell says residents and visitors downtown will see “different layers” of response, including the exclusion zone.

“What we’ll have is a mix of equipment supplied by the city to actually barricade access to certain roads as well as officer presence in certain areas to monitor and allow for traffic in and out of the areas,” Bell said.

“We have a really in-depth plan that’s well-resourced and works with our city partners to make sure that we can control the access as we need through the area that we’ve identified as the exclusionary zone.”

Bell says there will be barricades and hard barricades such as jersey barriers, fencing and fixed structures.

“As well as officer presence in different areas to monitor the traffic and allow the traffic that may be able to flow through there and stop the traffic as we need, moving ahead through the event,” Bell said.

Will roads be closed in downtown Ottawa and the ByWard Market?

Ottawa police say roads will not be closed in downtown Ottawa, including around the motor-vehicle exclusion zone.

“Residential and business traffic, as well as pedestrians, cyclists and public transit are permitted,” the city said in a statement. “The Rolling Thunder event may result in some temporary traffic delays.”

Will bylaws be enforced?

Ottawa Bylaw will be out in force this weekend to enforce bylaw rules during the “Rolling Thunder Ottawa” event.

The city has said there will be no opportunity for participants to entrench in the downtown area during the protest.

“All vehicles found failing to observe the no-stopping zones will be ticketed and towed,” the city said.

In addition to parking violations, Bylaw Services officers will be focusing on the following bylaws:

  • No unnecessary motor-vehicle or other noise, including speakers
  • No public urination and defecation
  • No open air fires
  • No littering
  • No lighting and discharging fireworks

Which other police forces will be on hand?

Ottawa police say residents will see a “significant increase” in officers from Ottawa police and outside forces.

Officers from the OPP, RCMP and other municipal police forces will be on patrol in Ottawa throughout the weekend.

“The focus of our plan will be on public safety, maintaining the right to protest and enforcing all applicable laws,” Bell told council.

“The plan draws on extra police resources and is designed to meet the issues we may face.  We have already begun to put that plan in place.  Residents will see a large police… including bylaw and parking enforcement officers. “

Can I still take the bus?

OC Transpo says there will be no changes to bus and O-Train service through the weekend.

All bus routes will continue to operate in downtown Ottawa.

For up to date information, visit octranspo.com/alerts, call 613-560-5000 or following OC Transpo’s Twitter account.

Will city hall be open?

Ottawa City Hall and its underground parking lot will be closed from 5 p.m. Thursday until 7 a.m. on Monday.

Will there be increased police presence in other areas of Ottawa?

Ottawa police say residents in the Richmond area may see an increased police presence and possible traffic delays.

Participants of the Rolling Thunder Ottawa event are expected to arrive and depart from a rural site on Eagleson Road.

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