Many protesters who were involved in the Freedom Convoy and Rolling Thunder protests in Ottawa earlier this year are back in town, coordinating Canada Day events.
James Topp, a veteran who marched through Canada to protest the remaining COVID-19 vaccine mandates, ended his trip with his supporters at the National War Memorial on Thursday.
He was joined for part of his final leg by the hopeful leadership of the Conservative Party of Canada, Pierre Poilievre.
After Thursday night’s speeches at the war memorial, Ottawa police said they have made four arrests, including for assaulting police officers, and are continuing the investigation.
March, dance party planned
The organizers will hold a “freedom music concert” featuring entertainers who became popular during the Freedom Convoy by performing on a stage set up in front of Parliament Hill on Wellington Street.
Protesters also plan to march to Parliament Hill and hold a dance there.
As was the case at the Rolling Thunder motorcycle rally in April, many of the Canada Day events are coordinated by Veterans 4 Freedom (V4F), a group formed of central figures involved in the Freedom Convoy’s weeks-long winter protests.
Andrew MacGillvray, a veteran and member of the V4F steering committee, said that while thousands of people are expected, it’s difficult to estimate how many will actually come.
“We hope to get many different groups of workers affected by the mandate,” he said.
“Whether it’s paramedics, whether it’s postmen or carpenters or, you know, teachers and all the different professions or workers who — across the country — have been negatively impacted by the mandate.”
Police say officers will allow legal protests but stop illegal activities, such as setting up structures or speakers without a permit or threatening occupation.
†[We’ve] planned, we are prepared and we have the resources,” said Steve Bell, Ottawa’s interim police chief, earlier this week.
‘We don’t come to occupy your city’
It is not clear whether protesters have applied for or received permits for their planned events. MacGillvray said his group has been in contact with police and is aware they are “under a lot of pressure”.
“We’re going to be peaceful. We’re going to be lawful. And if… [police] If you want to try and make a case for peaceful protests on Parliament Hill, there’s nothing we can do. At that point, we’ll just have to deal with it,” MacGillvray said.
“But ours will be nothing but peace. And we will be lawful. And our organization has a code of conduct and we will not break the law in any shape or form.”
While V4F coordinates many of the Canada Day events, other groups that continue to harbor grievances with the government also participate – and they have organized themselves as the Canadian Citizens Coalition.
“We’re Canadians too. We’re going to celebrate Canada on that day. We have a right to be able to do that and we have a right to be able to do that wherever we want,” MacGillvray said.
“We’re not coming to occupy your city. You happen to live in the capital of our country.’
Members of V4F also include Tom Marazzo, who was invited to help run the Freedom Convoy.
The man who invited him, James Bauder, faces charges in Ottawa and continues to protest in British Columbia. Bauder is responsible for setting up the Canada Unity group and website that helped develop the original convoy plan to get to Ottawa and clog the downtown area with vehicles.
Daniel Bulford, another key organizer who helped coordinate the Freedom Convoy, also joined Topp for the final leg of his journey.
Bulford is a former RCMP officer who was with the Prime Minister’s security department before retiring after refusing to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. He was the convoy’s chief of security and boasted that he had strong relations with police forces.