Many Canadian bikers are gathering this weekend in the capital Ottawa to demonstrate in the name of “freedom”, recalling the convoy of truckers opposed to sanitary measures last winter, when the police planned reinforcements and already carried out arrests.
Friday evening, police officers equipped with helmets and batons intervened “to disperse an aggressive and combative crowd”, according to a press release from the Ottawa police. Seven people were arrested for “various offences, including assault on the police” and 24 vehicles were towed on the eve of the major demonstration.
Strong police presence
Early Saturday morning, protesters converged on foot towards the Canadian War Memorial in the city center, many carrying a Canadian flag on their shoulders, noted an AFP journalist. This piece of red and white fabric became in February the symbol of the protest movement of truckers, and the latter is widely taken up by bikers and their sympathizers.
Drones flew over the crowd on Saturday morning, a smell of cannabis was noticeable and a strong police presence was visible, an AFP journalist noted. Veterans wearing army medals on their jackets were seen among the protesters. Former Canadian police and military officers had helped the truckers coordinate their action in the winter, which lasted more than three weeks and paralyzed Ottawa before being dismantled by law enforcement under emergency powers granted by the government Trudeau.
Lack of explicit claims
The demands of Canadian bikers are not explicit, but many online say they are protesting to “stand up for freedom”, while others strongly oppose Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his policies. Over the weekend, motorized vehicles are banned from part of the city centre, including the Parliament and the Prime Minister’s office. The police erected a security perimeter to prevent motorcycles from entering this area.
On Twitter, police said protesters dressed in protective gear were seen on the streets, prompting them to remind participants to “obey the laws”. On the sidelines of this rally, a counter-demonstration organized in particular by exacerbated residents was taking place at the same time.