Canadian Anti-Hate Network
Source: Dan Collen
Another set of protests descended onto Ottawa this weekend. Rather than vehicles seeking to occupy the streets for an indefinite amount of time, “Rolling Thunder” came and left by Sunday.
Despite the short visit, Ottawa residents frustrated with another thinly-veiled COVID-conspiracy event tried to make their voices heard as counter-protests and mutual aid programs were organized throughout the city.
The organizers participating in the event attempted to recapture some of the energy that managed to bring in broad support and block the streets of Ottawa for most of February. This time, however, instead of truckers the cause de jour was veterans. Despite this fact, many of the speeches, figures, and issues permeating the crowd had little to do with military members.
The focus of the event was a plan to “reconsecrate” the war memorial after the arrests of veterans during the police crackdown that ended the original convoy blockade several months ago. While there was a wreath-laying ceremony at the site, a number of other official events took place over the course of the weekend that addressed a variety of other issues.
These ranged from global conspiracies, killer vaccines, and – of course – the machinations of the World Economic Forum.
“The convoys that changed the world, and groups like this here, will be remembered in history books one day as heroic landmarks in Canadian history. Of honour, of patriotism,” said a speaker in front of the memorial. “Unless, of course, tyrannical governments that seek to censor, control speech and movement overreach into our lives and families and religious spaces and conscience defeat us, such as global movements like the world economic forum, communism, and fascism.”
Ahead of the demonstrations, police contacted organizers and informed the public of several “vehicle exclusion zones” that would prevent any vehicle from accessing certain sections of the city’s downtown core. Law enforcement also began to bring in additional officers from RCMP, OPP, York and Windsor Police to support the Ottawa Police Service.
On Friday, April 29, the first participants began to roll in. Nearly immediately they came into conflict with law enforcement.
According to a press release from the OPS, at least seven people were “arrested for various charges, including assaulting police” and 24 vehicles were towed on Friday – another man was also arrested the following day for breaking bail conditions.
There were no reported injuries, but law enforcement claims that several convoys of vehicles attempted to access the downtown core Friday evening and report a “concerted and coordinated effort to distract police resources in order to gain access.”
“Several attempts were made to occupy areas of the city but were thwarted with the assistance of officers, bylaw and tow trucks,” police said.
The first convoy stopped at Lees Avenue and initially refused to leave. One person was arrested at that location, and the remainder of the vehicles departed after tow trucks arrived on scene.
Live streams of the events, as well as the OPS press release, confirm that officers were deployed wearing helmets and batons. Multiple people were arrested in the area of Rideau/Sussex and police say the gear was needed to “disperse an aggressive and combative crowd.”
By daybreak on Saturday, several highway off-ramps leading downtown were shut down by the Ontario Provincial Police and the province's Ministry of Transportation. Rolling Thunder’s organizers and police both say they were in contact and the route planned ahead of time.
Of the vehicles towed, one attempted to reenter the city but an inspection by the MTO deemed the vehicle unsafe.
“It was removed from the roadway,” police said, in the release.
This may be a reference to a frequent “freedom” protester, Jim Kerr, whose signature “Church of Bubbles” van was towed initially after being pulled over and alleged to have a faulty parking brake. In a video posted by Kerr, he is told by an official that his vehicle did not meet safety standards and required a tow in order to be repaired.
On Saturday, an estimated 350 motorcycles entered the city. Another woman was reportedly arrested for assaulting police and another male driver was arrested after police said he attempted to rush an OPP motorcycle at a checkpoint.
“The man, who was on conditions stemming from the February occupation, is facing several charges, including breaching release conditions, dangerous driving, refusal to provide a sample, assault on a peace officer and assault with a weapon.”
Sunday was planned to be a much quieter day, as many of the protesters headed home as planned. A church service and social event dedicated to the bikers at Ottawa’s branch of the “Capital City Biker Church,” the only official event taking place that day, was vandalized.
“No haven for fascism” and “fuck off fascists,” read two different messages painted onto the building’s exterior. Participants on the scene also report the parking lot being seeded with thumbtacks.
Neil On The Hill
The event was initially organized by Neil Sheard, a 12-year military veteran, who had previously promised in a video to serve “cease and desist orders,” to the Peterborough city council, the mayor, politicians, and a public health official.
“We’re going to be serving Dr. Salvaterra for crimes against humanity,” Sheard said. “The Nuremberg trials 2.0 will be coming for you. And If you are convicted of crimes against humanity, there is only one sentence and that is a death sentence.
“So all these people. Everything that they’re doing is crimes against humanity. Here’s the paperwork. We’re coming for you.”
In a previous speech, he also compared the plight of the unvaccinated to that faced by the Jews under Adolf Hitler's National Socialist Workers Party.
"We are no longer the [unvaccinated], we are Jews," he said while holding an upturned Canadian flag. "That is where we are right now, 1933."
Three groups – Veterans for Freedom, Freedom Fighters Canada, and a COVID-conspiracy podcast – participated in organizing what they began calling “Freedom Weekend” after a video of Sheard circulated online when he called on the bikers to travel to the capital. Since then, he often starts his videos by referring to himself as “Neil on The Hill,” since Sheard was standing on Parliament Hill when he put out the initial call to bikers. Many involved in both the organizing and protest in Ottawa this weekend were previously involved in February’s convoy.
Various organizations played different roles in planning the day’s various events, though all were promoted through the official Rolling Thunder website – this included the inclusion of COVID-conspiracy influencer Chris “Sky” Saccoccia speaking on parliament hill.
“Chris Sky isn't participating in our OP DIGNITY event at the War Memorial on Saturday morning. The organizers and speakers are Veterans only,” a representative from Veterans for Freedom told the CAHN, “that being said it is open to the public and we can't stop anyone from attending to show their support for us.”
They added that the event featuring Saccoccia is being put on by a different organization.
In response to the announcement of Rolling Thunder, several community organizations coordinated a series of counter-protests.
The largest of which appears to have been an “Unwelcoming Party” on Friday. Organized by residents and Community Solidarity Ottawa, the goal was to immediately show the bikers and demonstrators that they were unwelcome when they arrived.
“Rolling Thunder Ottawa has nothing to do with honouring veterans or restoring dignity to the War Memorial,” said Community Solidarity Ottawa organizer Brian Latour ahead of the event. “They have made it clear by inviting Chris Saccoccia, who wrote that Hitler was ‘100% bang on’ … this is nothing more than a thinly-veiled hate movement with plans to use the War Memorial as a prop for their conspiratorial nonsense, holocaust denialism and far-right politics.”
Another community organization told the Ottawa Citizen, that they were visiting Centretown homes to distribute earplugs and leaflets “detailing what was expected” over the course of the demonstrations.
When Saccoccia spoke in front of a crowd on Parliament Hill, several counter protesters attempted to disrupt his talk. The crowd moved in to drown out those speaking out against him. Small scuffles broke out as some supporters tried to grab the counter-demonstrators' signs, while someone asked for calm over a loudspeaker.
Undeterred, Saccoccia quickly resumed his speech, blaming the World Economic Forum for his issues with the Royal Bank of Canada and insinuating a connection between the WEF and the death of the president of Tanzania.