Bikers Ride Into Ottawa for Second Annual ‘Rolling Thunder’ Event Supporting Veterans
Over 100 motorcycles briefly rolled through downtown Ottawa on Aug. 5 as part of the Rolling Thunder Ottawa event to pay tribute to Canada’s veterans but, like last year, were once again prevented by police from riding around the National War Memorial.
“Today is a wonderful day, because we are here to support the men and the women who died for this country,” event organizer and Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) Veteran Neil Sheard said to the crowd of bikers before they departed for the city.
“We’re doing it again next year and the year after that. And one more thing, if [the Ottawa police] decide to stop us from doing it next year, we’re going to lawyer up.”
Under the close watch of the Ottawa Police Service and Ontario Provincial Police, the motorcycles travelled from the town of Arnprior to downtown Ottawa via Highway 417. Dozens of supporters waving signs and flags criticizing the federal government and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau gathered in front of the National War Memorial to watch the bikers snake through the streets of Ottawa.
Similar to last year’s Rolling Thunder event on May 1—which saw larger crowds of over 350 bikers and 3,000 onlookers gather in downtown Ottawa—police and the city changed the route so the motorcycles would not drive around the National War Memorial.
That event came a few months after the Freedom Convoy protest in Ottawa, where hundreds of truckers descended upon the city to protest COVID-19 vaccine mandates and public health restrictions. Mr. Sheard said the first iteration of Rolling Thunder was intended to “give back the dignity” to the National War Memorial, which was fenced off after several incidents occurred on the first day of the Freedom Convoy.
After reports of a woman dancing on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and urine on the snow near the memorial, it was fenced off on Jan. 30 by authorities. Several veterans tore down the fencing on Feb. 12 and took it upon themselves to protect the site and prevent further desecration.
Mr. Sheard,who was involved in protests against COVID-19 public health restrictions, previously told the Epoch Times that the city had been “gun shy” about ‘Rolling Thunder’ being allowed in the city. The event listed Veterans for Freedom and Freedom Fighters Canada as its partners for the first event in 2022, both of which were linked to the Freedom Convoy.
Ottawa police Chief Eric Stubbs had said police had a “robust plan” for the 2023 event, with dozens of police officers gathered downtown to monitor the situation. Streets that were closed to traffic were reopened shortly after the motorcycles left the Centretown area.
Support for Veterans
Emerson Lowry, a CAF veteran who did a tour of duty in Germany between 1984 and 1988, said he was riding in Rolling Thunder to “represent ourselves at the National War Memorial, which was taken from us and fenced off back in the COVID-19 days.”
“So we’re gonna do this once a year. We’re going to reclaim it every year so they know we’re here,” he said in an interview. “This is just a show of support for the veterans and saying to the government, ‘You don’t own that. We own that.'”
Mr. Lowry said the federal government’s treatment of military veterans has been “disgusting,” as they have failed to provide adequate support. “You’ve got to fight for everything. You give your service, you put your life on the line, and you don’t ever hear from them again,” he said.
“It’s like a brotherhood nobody will ever understand. I have people I served with 30 years ago, and I could pick up the phone and they’d be there,” he said. “Civilians don’t understand us, and so you’ve become kind of an outcast. Nobody can relate unless you’ve been there.”
Mike, a primary reservist in the CAF for 18 years who wished to keep his last name private, said he rode in the event because he is “disappointed” by the lack of support the federal government has given veterans.
“The event is being put on to make people aware of the idea of freedom and the fact that it has to be fought for,” he said. “I think it’s important that people show support for things like this, for the concept of freedom.”
Another participant, Barry Deschenes, told The Epoch Times he decided to take part in the event even though he is not a veteran to show support the CAF.
“I was there last year and I was hooked, and I didn’t want to miss it this year. So I was on the ball to come back down,” Mr. Deschenes said.