Ottawa Bikers Church vandalized as organizers announce end of ‘Rolling Thunder’ protest

OTTAWA — Hundreds packed an Ottawa church Sunday morning to mark the final scheduled event of the Rolling Thunder weekend protest as police launched an investigation into vandalism that allegedly took place before the rally .

Bikers, supporters of the ‘Rolling Thunder’ rally and other worshipers arrived at the capital’s Biker Church to find its brick exterior had been vandalized with spray-painted messages including ‘fascists’ and “no refuge for fascism”.

The Ottawa Police Service has confirmed that its Hate Crimes Unit is investigating “an incident of hate-motivated mischief at a religious institution” on Carillon Street, the very street where the church is located.

But the incident did little to dampen the spirits of the cheering and peaceful crowd.

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A four-piece band sang soulful Christian rock songs as hundreds of worshipers waved their arms in the air.

Families, children and even pets filled the dark building, as purple spotlights and a stained glass image of Jesus illuminated by the sun outside lit up the scene inside. A bar at the back of the Pentecostal church sold soft drinks, snacks, and coffee.

“You start talking about hell and – ‘Oh, you’re one of those religious fanatics, aren’t you?'” Pastor Rob McKee asked the crowd during his sermon. His long gray beard spilled over his button-up plaid shirt, which he wore with baggy jeans. “We all love the fact that God is love, so if I was the enemy, I would work really hard to try to make people believe, no, it’s a scam, it’s fake news.”

Attendees socialized in the parking lot after the service ended. Most expressed their intention to leave Ottawa, although some indicated that they planned to move on to a possible demonstration in Montreal or return to Parliament Hill.

The Sunday morning service would be the final event of the weekend-long “Rolling Thunder” rally, organized in part by a group called Freedom Fighters Canada.

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Participants began arriving in Ottawa Friday afternoon, bringing large crowds to a still jittery downtown after the three-week Freedom Convoy occupation in February.

‘Rolling Thunder’ organizers say the rally was held to oppose COVID-19 vaccination mandates, but as in February, some protesters had a longer list of grievances.

Randy Hill of Penticton, British Columbia, arrived at the church service in a red van adorned with Canadian flags and a “faith not fear” sticker on the side. He said he and his wife Carol-Anne were opposed to all vaccination mandates and government measures and intended to stay put.

“We want this government removed by God and a just government put in place. The people in charge of this government are accountable to God,” he said.

The Ottawa Police Service arrested three people on Saturday, though the day’s protests remained mostly peaceful. Crowds took part in a ceremony at the National War Memorial in the morning, followed by a motorbike ride and demonstration on Parliament Hill in the afternoon.

The force said a woman was arrested for assaulting police officers on Elgin Street, where the motorcycle rally took place, and a man was arrested for breaching conditions stemming from the occupation of the ” Freedom Convoy” in February.

Protesters gather and wave flags during a demonstration, part of a convoy-style demonstration that participants are calling ‘Rolling Thunder’, in Ottawa on Saturday, April 30, 2022.

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Another man is facing multiple charges after he allegedly ‘rushed’ an Ontario Provincial Police motorcycle, including dangerous driving, assault with a weapon and violating conditions stemming from the latest round of protests, the Ontario Police Service said. Ottawa in a statement.

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The Ottawa police called in the RCMP, the Ontario Provincial Police and a number of municipal forces.

More than 760 parking tickets have been issued and 39 vehicles have been towed since Friday morning, city officials said Sunday. Ten other tickets were issued for offenses such as noise, smoking and public urination.

Steve Bell, acting chief of the Ottawa Police Service, warned protesters that they will not be allowed to begin a long-term occupation this time. But some citizens, including Centerville Community Association President Mary Huang, say the real test will be whether people actually leave town on Sunday afternoon.

© 2022 The Canadian Press

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