A group with elements reminiscent of this winter's convoy protest has announced plans for a series of weekend events in Ottawa, but local police say protesters won't be allowed to bring their vehicles to streets near Parliament Hill and the National War Memorial.
Unlike the Freedom Convoy in January and February, "Rolling Thunder Ottawa" isn't promoting a petition for changing COVID-19 rules, but rather aligning itself with groups that have varied motives.
The event's website lists three partners: a veteran's group wanting to restore and protect fundamental rights; a group that says it wants the end of all tyrannical laws; and a pro-convoy streamer whose videos go back to the last days of the Ottawa occupation and who has since frequented the freedom rally circuit.
Under a photo of motorcyclists and the slogan "The Bikers Are Coming," the organizers of the weekend protest also list events starting Friday with a 6 p.m. rally on Parliament Hill, a Saturday morning service at the National War Memorial, another Saturday afternoon Hill rally and a Sunday church service in Vanier.
In a news release Monday ahead of an afternoon meeting of the Ottawa Police Services Board, local police shared some details of their plans.
First on their list is enforcing the city's wishes to ban protest vehicles from certain areas, including Parliament Hill and the National War Memorial.
Acting Ottawa police Chief Steve Bell said further details on the boundaries of the "exclusionary zone" could come as early as Tuesday. Parts of Metcalfe, O'Connor and Wellington streets have remained closed to vehicles for more than two months.
"People will still be allowed to travel [in the zone] on foot, conduct their business, engage in protests, show support for things of that. Nothing changes there. It's just the footprint of the vehicles that we're starting to limit," Bell said in a scrum before Monday's board meeting.
WATCH | Canada's public safety minister discusses possible weekend convoy:
Possible staging areas to the west, east
Ottawa police said residents should expect travel delays this weekend in the core and around an unspecified gathering site on Eagleson Road to the west. A traffic plan is in the works and it may include closing some downtown streets to vehicles.
In an interview with CBC Radio's Ottawa Morning on Tuesday, Bell said people associated with the rally have told police there could be between 500 and 1,000 vehicles. Bell said it's too early to provide any definitive figure.
Police have also been told that a staging area on private property in the east end is possible, but hasn't been confirmed.
"We are establishing a route that will take them in and around the downtown area without actually entering the downtown core," Bell said.
After the rally, they plan to disperse "to different areas in the city," Bell added.
A video update on the Rolling Thunder website said that by not allowing bikers to do a loop of the memorial, the event risks becoming a "free-for-all."
Bell said police remain in contact with organizers, but that once again identifying leaders has proved difficult.
"We find with … these groupings of people, it's a challenge for us to identify the actual leadership core because it changes on a regular basis," Bell told Ottawa Morning.
"We continue to give them our parameters of how we expect them to conduct themselves in the city, and we put in a plan and brought out a number of resources in order to help us execute that plan.
"We've heard loud and clear from our community. Our community will not tolerate another occurrence of occupations of our streets. They will not tolerate disruption in the streets. They're tired of what's occurred. We acknowledge the harm that the convoy did to our community members."
Expect more than just motorcycles
Ottawa police said it would draw resources from the RCMP, as well as other provincial and municipal police forces to protect both public safety and the right to lawfully, peacefully protest.
A spokesperson for Ontario Provincial Police told Radio-Canada it is planning for more than just motorcycles to take part in the rally.
Downtown residents reported being scared and harassed and many businesses closed during the Freedom Convoy, which occupied some streets in the downtown core from the last weekend in January until the Family Day long weekend.
WATCH | How the end of the downtown occupation unfolded:
The police and government response is under review on multiple fronts, including the Monday announcement of an inquiry into the use of the federal Emergencies Act. Ottawa's police chief resigned and the head of the city's police oversight board was voted out while the occupation was ongoing.