In the News April 27
“Rolling Thunder Ottawa”
What Should Citizens and Residents Expect?
News reports indicate that a group of motorcycle riders calling itself “Rolling Thunder Ottawa” plans to converge in Ottawa this weekend, April 29-May 1. It conjures up the spectre of the “Freedom Convoy” which occupied the city for an extended period, from January 22 to February 23, thanks to the involvement of current and former military and police and mercenaries of various kinds as well as rank and file crying freedom against vaccine mandates and for alternative healthcare systems and myriad other things. From the perspective of the majority of Ottawa residents, a central problem that the “Freedom Convoy” raised was what does a citizen or resident do when their rights are not defended by the state and, even worse, when the state is itself aligned against them. It is a serious question indeed.
This spilled over into Calgary where “freedom” type protests have been ongoing with a particular residential neighbourhood and business district targeted every weekend for a year. Finally, the mayor issued an injunction against all unpermitted protests, thereby catching everyone in its net, no matter whether they are racists and fascists who should have no right to speak or organize or just rowdy individuals who have jumped on a bandwagon for their own reasons or citizens and residents whose rights must be provided with a guarantee. This is the crux of the matter. What constitutes hate propaganda, who decides the criteria and what should be done about it?
At present it is people with positions of power and privilege who, based on personal ideological beliefs, declare the rules as they go along and act as judge, jury and executioner in the name of high ideals. It must not pass!
Even though the present motorcycle convoy which calls itself Thunder Rolling Ottawa does not claim to have any demands, and specifically insists it has no demands related to COVID mandates, already the scenario is replete with recollections of the nightmare which faced the citizens and residents of Ottawa during the “Freedom Convoy.”
On a radio interview on the Evan Solomon Show, organizer Neil Sheard said the event is meant to “give back dignity” to the National War Monument’s “desecration by the powers that be,” meaning the fencing that was erected around it during the “Freedom Convoy.”
“We’ve been working with the city, we worked with the police, and we now have a route, and it’s all settled,” Sheard said. He detailed that the route would not involve driving around the monument, but bikers might “do a little bit of a salute … driving by down Mackenzie, across the bridge at Mackenzie, back down onto Rideau and then push out …”
On April 25, the group issued a statement on its website saying it was “cautiously optimistic” about Ottawa Police coming to an agreement with it to establish a route for anywhere from 500 to 1,000 motorcycles driving into the Parliamentary District for an action on April 29 – May 1.
On the same day, without a clear indication of which statement came out first, the Ottawa Police Services issued a statement that makes a point of refuting any suggestion that the police were doing anything more than “reaching out” to the Rolling Thunder organizers. “We do this for every event,” the statement says. Reaching out does not imply “support to any specific cause,” it says. It’s a matter of having “clear lines of communication” and making sure “public safety issues are addressed,” it says.
The lines of communication seem to be anything but clear.
Ottawa Police Services said they are also reaching out to individuals who “plan to express their opposition to this event through protest.” “Everyone will be treated equitably,” the statement says, adding that “the role of police is to remain impartial, promote public safety and enforce relevant legislation.” To say the forces of law and order are neutral at any time is itself a farce. Even if they follow a rule of law, the laws are mostly tilted in favour of the state and the interests it supports. Nowadays when anarchy prevails and everyone from government officials to corrections services to police and military are prone to speak outside of their mandates and give their personal opinions on matters of concern, such statements are even more meaningless. They certainly do not give comfort or confidence to citizens and residents who are all left to fend for themselves.
The Ottawa Police Services also said that their role is to support and enforce the position of the City of Ottawa to not allow “motor vehicle protests, rallies or events in the designated downtown core … areas near Parliament Hill and the National War Memorial.” They said that RCMP, OPP and other municipal police services will lend support and “controlled intersections, road closures, vehicle towing and ticketing” will be part of the enforcement strategy.
In other words, citizens and residents, residential areas and business districts, beware!
Organizers, the police say, “will be held accountable for their actions before, during and after events.” Rolling Thunder says that the police “will be held accountable in the court of law for their actions before, during and after events.”
The police go further, saying that they are going to monitor open source “commentary related to all events.” Does this mean they will not monitor private exchanges? It is not clear. “Threatening or intimidating behaviours will be investigated and subject to charges where warranted,” the police statement says. In addition, the statement informs that “Investigative teams, including our Hate Crime Unit, are in place focused on gathering evidence and laying charges.”
According to the statement, since “the removal of the unlawful protest,” (meaning the “Freedom Convoy”) it has facilitated more than 100 protests. “We always protect the rights of individuals to lawfully and peacefully protest in line with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms,” it says.
Finally, the police inform that residents and businesses should expect traffic delays and possible restriction of the designated zone to “pedestrian-only” entry. They add that there will be an increased police presence in the rural Eagleson Rd area where “they are aware” that some Rolling Thunder participants will gather.
Rolling Thunder’s statement, issued when it claims it was still “cautiously optimistic” says: “We do not support blockades, obstruction of police, damage to property, or hate and vitriol directed to the residents of Ottawa. We also encourage all participants of Rolling Thunder Ottawa to [follow the laws].”
The statement, which refers to the “Freedom Convoy” as the “lawful protest in Ottawa,” says it was targeted by “provocateurs, saboteurs and embellishers to tarnish the peace and freedom loving movement.” It tells participants to report any unlawful actions they witness to the nearest police officer.
Meanwhile, the Trudeau Government’s use of the Emergencies Act during the “Freedom Convoy” is being studied by a Special Joint Parliamentary Committee on the Declaration of Emergency. The Committee’s mandate is to examine “the exercise of powers and the performance of duties and functions pursuant to a declaration of emergency.”
It held its first meeting in camera on March 14 and tabled its first report to Parliament on March 22, the only content being to inform that “the committee intends to table additional reports at a later date.”
The Committee appears to be engaged in a pretentious discussion which clarifies nothing, especially not the problem it is trying to solve. At its third meeting, on March 29, the Conservatives said it would “behoove” the Committee to interpret its mandate in a manner that recognizes the “well-recognized role as being the grand inquest of the nation.”
Philippe Dufresne, Law Clerk and Parliamentary Counsel for the House of Commons, told members: “the idea of ‘the grand inquest of the nation’ … has certainly been cited and included by the Supreme Court of Canada in recognition of the important work of the House and committees in holding the government to account and being able to do its work.”
Canadians are forced to await the verdict of the grand inquisitors which is certainly not an image which connotes being made part of the equation of deciding what is in store for them as events unfold.
Renewal Update, posted April 27, 2022