Freedom Convoy protesters return to Ottawa for Canada Day

Many protesters involved in the Freedom Convoy and Rolling Thunder events in Ottawa earlier this year are back in the city coordinating events for Canada Day.

'We are not coming to occupy your city,' says one organizer

Many protesters involved in the Freedom Convoy and Rolling Thunder protests in Ottawa earlier this year are back in the city, co-ordinating events on Canada Day.

James Topp, a veteran marching across Canada to protest remaining COVID-19 vaccine mandates, ended his journey with his supporters Thursday at the National War Memorial.

He was joined for a portion of his final leg by Conservative Party of Canada leadership hopeful Pierre Poilievre.

After Thursday evening's speeches at the war memorial, Ottawa police said they made four arrests, including for assaulting police officers, and are continuing to investigate.

A crowd of people walks beside a man in an orange vest, with some taking his photo.

March, dance party planned

Following Friday's picnic, organizers will hold a "freedom music concert" featuring entertainers who became popular during the Freedom Convoy for performing on a stage that was set up in front of Parliament Hill on Wellington Street.

Protesters are also planning to march to Parliament Hill and hold a dance party there.

As was the case during the Rolling Thunder motorcycle rally in April, many of the Canada Day events are being co-ordinated by Veterans 4 Freedom (V4F), a group formed by central figures involved in the Freedom Convoy's weeks-long winter protests.

Andrew MacGillvray, a veteran and member of the V4F steering committee, said while thousands of people are expected, it's tough to gauge how many will actually attend.

"We're hoping to get a lot of different groups of workers who have been affected by the mandate," he said.

"Whether it be paramedics, whether it be postal workers or carpenters or, you know, teachers and all the different professions or workers who — across the country — have had been negatively affected by the mandate."

Police say officers will allow legal protests but will shut down illegal activities, like setting up structures or speakers without a permit or making threats of an occupation.

"[We've] planned, we're prepared and we have the resources," said Steve Bell, Ottawa's interim police chief, earlier this week.

'We are not coming to occupy your city'

It's not clear if 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."

He said V4F relocated some events from in front of the Supreme Court of Canada to Strathcona Park to relieve traffic downtown.

"We are going to be peaceful. We are going to be lawful. And if [police] want to try and crack down on us for peacefully protesting on Parliament Hill, then there's nothing we can do. We'll just have to deal with it at that time," MacGillvray said.

"But from us, it's going to be nothing but peace. And we're going to be lawful. And our organization has a code of conduct and we are not going to be breaking the law in any shape or form."

While V4F is co-ordinating many of the Canada Day events, other groups that continue to hold grievances with the government are also participating — and they've organized themselves as the Canadian Citizens Coalition.

"We're Canadians as well. We are going to be celebrating Canada on that day. We have the right to be able to do that and we have the right to be able do that where we want," MacGillvray said.

"We are not coming to occupy your city. You just happen to live in our nation's capital."

Other planned events include an appearance by Josh Barber, known by supporters as "Mr. Freedom" for his Braveheart-inspired outfit. Barber's social media following has grown since the Freedom Convoy ended, and he's participated in several adjacent protests around Ontario in the months since.

V4F's members also include Tom Marazzo, who was invited to come and help run the Freedom Convoy.

The man who invited him, James Bauder, is facing charges in Ottawa and continues to protest in British Columbia. Bauder is responsible for creating the Canada Unity group and website that helped develop the initial convoy plan to come to Ottawa and clog the downtown with vehicles.

Daniel Bulford, another key organizer who helped co-ordinate the Freedom Convoy, also joined Topp for the final leg of his journey.

Bulford is a former RCMP officer who was on the prime minister's security detail before quitting after refusing to get the COVID-19 vaccine. He was the convoy's head of security, and boasted of having strong relations to police agencies.

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