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A tale of two cities: in Port Dover, freedom-loving bikers welcomed; in Ottawa, they’re demonized

The freedom-oriented Friday the 13th motorcycle rally in Port Dover, Ontario typically draws tens of thousands of bikers and has been occurring since 1981.

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On a glorious spring day in May that felt more like July thanks to temperatures topping 30ºC, tens of thousands of motorcyclists descended upon Port Dover, Ont. last Friday – yet another telltale sign that, slowly but surely, things are getting back to pre-COVID normal.

The Friday the 13th gathering in Port Dover goes back some four decades. Nothing can stop this tradition of bikers coming together to celebrate life, liberty, and freedom – even though it seems that “freedom” is the new F-word for certain people.

Indeed, the last Friday the 13th gathering occurred in August 2021. Well, sort of. If you can believe it, Kristal Chopp, the mayor of Norfolk County (which encompasses Port Dover) tried to kill last year’s Friday the 13th event. She actually declared the gathering to be a “non-event.” This COVID-Karen thought it would be too dangerous for bikers to gather outdoors. (She might’ve had a better chance declaring the Earth’s rotation around the sun as being a “non-event” given that thousands of motorcyclists defied the Norfolk County Coronavirus Khaleesi given that the massive biker party roared on nevertheless.) We reached out to Mayor Chopp for comment; apparently she’s still in her basement curled up in the fetal position.

In any event, there were no discouraging words aimed at attendees on this Friday the 13th. Permits for vendor tents and musical acts were issued, just like the good ol’ pre-coronavirus days. And members of the Ontario Provincial Police were superb in directing traffic to ensure a good time was had by all.

Speaking of law enforcement, the police behaviour at Port Dover was thankfully a complete turnaround vis-à-vis how bikers were treated precisely two weeks earlier in Ottawa. That’s when hundreds of motorcyclists comprising Rolling Thunder descended upon the nation’s capital, only to be deemed bikers-non-grata by the authorities. As such, most were denied entry into downtown Ottawa; apparently a Harley draped with a Canadian flag was tantamount to a hate symbol for the likes of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson. Thus, roadblocks were erected, and the entire downtown area was transformed into a huge no-stopping zone due to a “special event.” (What was the “special event” pray tell? The revocation of our charter rights and freedoms?)

The participants of Rolling Thunder – many of whom are veterans – simply wanted to drive by the National War Memorial and lay a wreath. How dare they!

Thus, in the final analysis, it was quite jolly to see that bikers visiting Port Dover were given the welcome mat treatment as opposed to the cold shoulder. Which is precisely the way it should be.

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