(This April 29 story refiles to removes extraneous notes, changes “arrests” to “arrest” in headline)
By Jenna Zucker and Blair Gable
(Reuters) – Police in the Canadian capital, Ottawa, arrested several people on Friday, after a march by hundreds of bikers, pedestrians and cars waving Canadian flags through downtown Ottawa turned unruly, authorities said.
Friday’s parade was a protest against claimed government overreach, and came less than three months after a truckers’ movement paralyzed the capital for more than three weeks.
Ottawa Police said in a tweet on Friday that several people had been arrested and that officers remained on scene to maintain safety.
Organizers of Friday’s convoy, which they call “Rolling Thunder Ottawa,” say they are there in support of “freedom” and military veterans. Local media say several of the participants were in Ottawa during the previous protest, which was against a vaccine mandate for cross-border truckers.
Several honking truckers and protesters standing atop of pick-up vehicles and cars, shouting “freedom” marched through downtown Ottawa as police deployed additional officers to get the situation under control.
Ottawa Police said in a tweet that several vehicles attempted to occupy a downtown parking lot, though all but one left.
Ottawa Police, which came under criticism for their handling of February protests, had said they would not allow motor vehicles to stop or park on downtown streets. They had brought in additional personnel to bolster municipal authorities ahead of the Friday march.
In February, the government of Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau invoked seldom-used emergency powers to clear Ottawa protests and police arrested dozens of people who blocked the downtown core near parliament. The protesters had also blocked key border crossings to the United States.
A former member of the Canadian Armed Forces, Neil Sheard, is one the protest’s main organizers of Friday’s march.
In a video posted to YouTube, Sheard said his plan is to lay a wreath at the National War Memorial in a show of respect for veterans. Other groups that are participating are protesting more generally against the government and government mandates.
Sheard said he supports any group that wants to fight for the freedom of all Canadians, because in his view, freedom of speech was paid for by veterans.
“The rights and freedoms of Canadians are eroding, and we are going to work to sustain lawful, civic action in order to restore those fundamental rights,” Andrew MacGillivray, a member of the Freedom Fighters Canada group that is also participating, told Reuters recently.
The events that started on Friday are due to end on Sunday.