Hundreds of Hells Angels biker gang members arrived in Ottawa this weekend for an annual meeting that police have called the largest gathering of the notorious organization in Canadian history.
More than 700 members have begun arriving at a longstanding Hells Angels clubhouse in Carlsbad Springs, a community in Ottawa’s southeast end. The bikers are in town to celebrate the 15th anniversary of the organization’s Ontario chapter and to hold a mandatory-attendance meeting.
The bikers arrived at the compound Saturday with a fleet of Harley-Davidsons, plenty of food and drinks and, according to one local gas station owner, a serious hankering for slushies.
“We were told, make sure you have a lot of cigarettes, and they buy Slush Puppies by the dozen,” gas station owner Monique Lacasse told CTV Ottawa, adding “and they bought all our bacon.”
The Hells Angels are considered organized crime, and police said they would be beefing up their presence in the community. But local residents and business owners said they are not too worried about trouble.
Lacasse has operated a gas depot and convenience store in the area for decades, and she says she isn’t too concerned about the meeting. In fact, she expects a pleasant boost in sales.
“We’ve been here 34 years. We’ve seen them at I don’t know how many events they had. We never, never had any problems. Never,” she said.
A worker at a local restaurant said earlier this week that she also expected to make plenty of extra money from the influx of visitors.
“We added some extra staff,” said Kennedy Gaudet, who works at D & S Southern Comfort BBQ. “It’s going to be busy, I’m sure.”
The convention is expected to be so large, police said, because many of the organization’s members were recently released from prison.
Police said that based on early observations made Saturday, everything seems in order and there are no immediate safety concerns.
“People in the neighbourhood are safe. However, keep in mind any time you have Hells Angels in your community, you have to be concerned,” Det. Staff Sgt. Len Isnor told CTV News Channel from outside the clubhouse on Saturday.
“We have a good police presence. So as long as the police are there, present, they’ll be on their best behaviour. And they have been so far, and everything is going well.”
Visits to Parliament, Byward Market
While the clubhouse may be tucked away in a quiet Ottawa subdivision, the bikers were spotted across the nation’s capital on Saturday. Some were seen touring the bustling Byward Market and others took a short trip to Parliament Hill.
Ottawa Police earlier alerted the public that Hells Angels members will likely be seen at restaurants and hotels across town, and to limit any interactions with members.
Ottawa Police said they’re monitoring the meeting closely but they don’t anticipate any problems. While Hells Angels members have a long history of crime – including convictions related to extortion, drugs and murder – members are typically warned by leaders to behave at important events.
“It’s not illegal to meet at certain locations, we’re just here for everybody’s safety,“ said Ottawa Police Const. Chuck Benoit on Saturday.
Despite the warning from law enforcement, several neighbours who live near the Hells Angels clubhouse told CTV Ottawa that they aren’t particularly worried.
“They’ll never ever do anything in their own backyard. And this is their backyard, so they’re welcome here,” one man said.
Another woman said the bikers typically don’t cause problems if they’re left alone.
“Nobody bothers them, they won’t bother us. Just let them have their party at their hidden little place,” she said.