Police investigating graffiti at Rolling Thunder church service

·5 min read
Police are investigating after several slogans and profanities were written on the Vanier church.  (Submitted to CBC - image credit)
Police are investigating after several slogans and profanities were written on the Vanier church. (Submitted to CBC - image credit)

Ottawa police are investigating what they're calling hate-motivated mischief at a church in the city's Vanier neighbourhood Sunday morning.

Photos sent to CBC News show the words "No haven for fascism" and "f— off fascists" spray painted on the Capital City Bikers' Church, where a service connected to the Rolling Thunder Rally was held Sunday morning.

Police were alerted about the graffiti at 7 a.m. ET and are looking for information regarding the incident. The police's hate crime unit is investigating.

Churchgoers said they weren't letting the vandalism detract from this morning's service.

According to the City of Ottawa, 889 parking tickets were issued between Friday morning and Sunday night in connection with the demonstration.

As well, 45 vehicles were towed, with 10 tickets issued for offences including noise, smoking and public urination.

Ten people have been arrested by police since Friday morning.

Organizers of this weekend's events indicated before they arrived that they planned to leave the city on Sunday after the church service, Ottawa police said.

Several highway ramps to the downtown core were closed Sunday morning, as police said in a news release the closures helped minimize the rally's impact on the city's downtown on Saturday.

"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," the Saturday night release said.

Organizers changed their planned ride on Saturday morning but notified police of the change, police said. They estimated 350 motorcycles took part in the ride.

In an update Sunday night, the City of Ottawa said police were in the process of lifting the motor vehicle exclusion zone, but that parking restrictions would stay in effect until Monday.

Charles Bordeleau, a former Ottawa police chief, told CBC News the police response has been effective, with officers retaining control of the downtown area. He called it a significant change from what was seen in February.

"[Police] had a plan and they executed it," he said. "They had the resources, not only from a police officer perspective, but they also had the the right equipment."

Patrick Doyle/The Canadian Press
Patrick Doyle/The Canadian Press

Christine Leadman, executive director of the Bank Street BIA, said many community members still felt uncomfortable and several businesses chose to remain closed this weekend.

Still, she said police seemed better prepared.

"Business is down but, at the same time, there is less tension," she said. "So we're happy with the way that police managed things this time."

But Bordeleau said the policing model being used — which involves calling upon RCMP, OPP and other police services — isn't sustainable if similar protests become a regular occurrence.

"It's very costly from a taxpayers perspective," he said. "It's also very time consuming and you're diverting resources from different communities.

"So they're going to have to rethink how they manage this and how do you re-frame the policing model in order to adapt to a potentially new approach to demonstrators."

WATCH | Rally met with organized police presence:

Federal Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino said he believes police had a much better handle of the situation this weekend.

"We still have the rest of today to go, but I think by and large people have been able to come express a point of view and hopefully we'll be able to maintain some semblance of normalcy coming out of this weekend," he said on Rosemary Barton Live Sunday.

"There are still a lot of lessons to be taken from last January and February, but I'm encouraged by what I've seen from law enforcement."

'We're going to leave right afterwards': rally attendee

A demonstrator draped in a Canadian flag at the National War Memorial told CBC on Saturday the event was not a protest, but a rally for veterans.

"We're going to leave right afterwards. We're giving honour and respect back to this country."

This weekend's events are being organized by several people who took part in the weeks-long occupation of city streets during the self-described Freedom Convoy earlier this year.

While many mask mandates and other COVID-19 health restrictions have been lifted, some in attendance were focused on ones that remain, including the requirement for many federal employees to be vaccinated and those for air travel.

"I still can't get on a plane. So I still can't travel, which is concerning because it's a free country," said David Paisley, who has promoted the weekend's events through YouTube.

Police made 10 arrests over the first two days of the rally with several charges related to people breaching bail conditions that require they don't enter the city, stemming from earlier charges laid during the Freedom Convoy protest in February.

Police want to ensure separate charity event goes as planned

One of police's main goals on Sunday was to ensure a separate charity walking and cycling event — CN for CHEO — went ahead as planned, the release said.

The all-day relay is set to start from the National War Museum starting at 10 a.m. ET to raise funds for children's cancer care at eastern Ontario's children's hospital in Ottawa.

On its website, the event says it does not believe the rally will affect its schedule.

"We want to assure our participants that we have been working closely with the Ottawa Police Service and are grateful for their work to ensure the event goes ahead, uninterrupted and safely."

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