Ottawa police arrest 7, tow vehicles on Day 1 of weekend rally

The Ottawa Police Service on Friday evening cleared a crowd gathering near the Rideau Centre in downtown Ottawa on the first day of this weekend's Rolling Thunder motorcycle rally.

Officers deployed with helmets and shields to help control crowd

Police take a person into custody as they work to clear an area on Rideau Street in Ottawa on Friday night, during a convoy-style protest that participants are calling Rolling Thunder. (Justin Tang/The Canadian Press)

Ottawa police say they have made seven arrests and towed 24 vehicles in downtown Ottawa on the first day of this weekend's Rolling Thunder motorcycle rally.

The Ottawa Police Service tweeted early Saturday about the towing and arrests, which involved "various charges, including assaulting police."

The tweets said there were no reported injuries and "police remain in full control of city streets."

Shortly before 7:30 p.m. ET Friday, the police service tweeted about a large crowd on Rideau Street and asked people to avoid the area.

Twenty minutes later, police said they were dealing with aggressive people there and that more officers were being sent to help manage the situation.

Kitchissippi ward Coun. Jeff Leiper tweeted a video showing police officers watching a large crowd amass in front of the Rideau Centre.

"We are asking that people remain peaceful and follow police directions as they work to clear the area," police tweeted at about 8 p.m.

Police also tweeted that "due to an escalation of crowd aggression" at the intersection of Rideau and Sussex Streets, some officers would be deployed wearing helmets and shields.

The City of Ottawa brought in tight restrictions in anticipation of this weekend's protest to avoid a repeat of the anti-mandate convoy's occupation that paralyzed the downtown core for several weeks earlier this year.

Participants in the Rolling Thunder Rally arrived earlier in the evening on Parliament Hill. It was the first of several scheduled events this weekend, which organizers say are about honouring veterans who fought for freedom.

Earlier in the week, Rolling Thunder Ottawa said in a statement that its members do not support efforts to obstruct police. 

Warnings that vehicles would be towed

Police had warned for days that any vehicles associated with the rally that made their way onto certain downtown streets would be removed. 

A tow truck was used to remove a vehicle on Rideau Street Friday night amid cries of "Freedom!" from the crowd.

Warning: the video below contains offensive language. 

Police moved the crowd west past the intersection of Rideau Street and Sussex Drive, back toward Parliament Hill.

Some demonstrators let off fireworks and drank openly in public — acts police said there would be zero tolerance for during the weekend.

By 10 p.m., the crowd had thinned out and police tweeted they had diverted several vehicles trying to occupy a downtown parking lot. 

A wreath-laying ceremony at the National War Memorial tied to the event is planned for Saturday morning. 

A spokesperson for the Royal Canadian Legion said she hoped participants proceed "respectfully and in the spirit of remembrance."

Protesters on Rideau Street in Ottawa shout and crowd around police officers on Friday evening on the first day of this weekend's Rolling Thunder motorcycle rally. (David Thurton/CBC)


Guy Quenneville

Reporter at CBC Ottawa, originally from Cornwall, Ont.

Story tips? Email me at or DM me @gqinott on Twitter.

With files from David Fraser and Chris Rands