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Police deployed in force in Ottawa amid 'freedom' protests

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
"Rolling Thunder Ottawa" protesters ride as hundreds of flag-bearing demonstrators converged in downtown Ottawa, Ontario, Canada on April 29, 2022. (Photo by Reuters)

Ottawa police have deployed in force in the Canadian capital's center amid a motorcyclists-led anti-establishment protest, after making multiple arrests.

The "Rolling Thunder Ottawa" rally comes two months after a three-week-long trucker-led protests in the city.

On Saturday, protesters rallying on foot and waving Canadian flags converged on a war monument in central Ottawa. Among the demonstrators were military veterans.

Their participation was reminiscent of the truckers' protests, when former police and retired soldiers helped coordinate protest actions.

Many demonstrators carried Canadian flags -- brandished as a symbol of protest when the truckers, angered over COVID restrictions and broader government policies, rallied in Ottawa. 

Heavily deployed police forces maintained a strong presence in the city after making multiple arrests the night before when a crowd gathered just outside the parliamentary precinct.

Drones could be seen flying overhead as helmeted police maintained a heavy presence. Motorized vehicles are banned on weekends from the central area where the parliament and the prime minister's residence are located. 

Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson said the local police, which had called in more than 800 reinforcements, had taken “a strong stance″ to prevent protesters from forming a new encampment, the kind that was set up by protesters in Ottawa in February.

Three city blocks around the parliament have been barricaded since the end of the truckers' demonstration.

A protest organizer, Neil Sheard, had said on a YouTube video that the restrictions on vehicle traffic could spark a "free for all." 

The protesters have said in social media posts that they sought to "defend their freedom," while others bitterly criticized Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his policies.

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