Miranda Caley

April 28, 2022

-Toronto Sun


Still reeling from the weeks-long “Freedom Convoy” occupation that brought the city’s downtown core to a standstill earlier this year, anxious Ottawa residents say they want participants of this coming weekend’s biker rally to know they are not welcome in the community.

Community Solidarity Ottawa, a coalition of community organizers, residents and labour unions, is planning on hosting an “Unwelcoming Party” on Friday against those taking part in the “Rolling Thunder” motorcycle rally. The idea is to showcase immediately that residents in Ottawa are not happy with the presence of another protest that threatens to disrupt and impede residents.

The event came together after a CSO virtual community briefing on Monday to discuss the protest revealed strong concerns from community members, said Brian Latour, a CSO organizer.

“We have to do something to make sure that they feel unwelcome,” he said.

“We’re wanting to show our opposition to the convoy and also to (…) build those connections so we can build a stronger, more resilient community because I think these people have plans to keep coming back,” he said. The organization has also been working to spread information about “Rolling Thunder” plans and routes to ensure locals know what’s happening.

While most details about the CSO event are still in planning, the “Unwelcoming Party” will likely take the shape of a counter-protest with a focus on bringing the community together, Latour said.

The event is tentatively planned for Friday at 5 p.m. at Strathcona Park.

CSO was also to host a safety culture briefing Wednesday night via Zoom.

In a release, CSO stated its goal with the event is to “greet” “Rolling Thunder” supporters and “provide a point of convergence for community opposition to Convoy 2.0.”

The “Rolling Thunder” protest is expected to run through the weekend, starting with a Friday evening rally at Parliament Hill.

The motivations behind this protest, planned to run until Sunday, are vague in official materials, with the group’s website calling the event a celebration of freedom. Organizer Neil Sheard and far-right figure Chris “Sky” Saccocicia, though, have both been involved in protests against COVID-19 restrictions.

The rally has also been marketed as a motorcycle rally in support of veterans, though social media posts from organizers suggest thousands of other vehicles will also be involved. Despite promises from Sheard on Newstalk 580 CFRA’s The Evan Solomon Show that the event would be peaceful, some residents are feeling on edge.

One group of Centretown residents visited homes on Wednesday to hand out 600 pairs of earplugs and 200 leaflets detailing what was expected this weekend. Though group members expressed a desire to remain anonymous for safety reasons, they said their goal was to “help reduce harm, provide resources to the community, and invite their neighbours into a network of fellow residents who are looking out for one another.”

In an email, one volunteer said the group was “trying to support people who may be less engaged with the news or social media, for whatever reasonThese folks are part of our community, they often get missed in communication strategies, and it’s important that we support everyone …

“I think what we all learned in February is that we can’t just sit back quietly and wait. We need to let them know they are not welcome here.”