Canadian police moved in Saturday to remove protesters who have disrupted Canada-U.S. trade at a major bridge border crossing. Officials began issuing tickets and towing vehicles that remained parked in the area of the protest, Windsor police tweeted Saturday afternoon.
Demonstrators had spent the night at the Ambassador Bridge spanning the river between Detroit and Windsor, Ontario, in defiance of new warnings to end the blockade, which disrupted the flow of traffic and goods and forced the auto industry on both sides to roll back production. However, many of them drove away as scores of police approached shortly after dawn on Saturday.
Surrounded by dozens of officers, a man with “Mandate Freedom” and “Trump 2024” spray-painted on his vehicle left as other protesters began dismantling a small tarp-covered encampment. A trucker honked his horn as he, too, drove off, to cheers and chants of “Freedom!”
Meanwhile, in Ottawa, local police announced they had set up a command center to respond to the protests, which attracted about 4,000 people in the nation’s capital on Saturday.
“Safety concerns – arising from aggressive, illegal behaviour by many demonstrators – limited police enforcement capabilities,” the police department wrote in a statement late Saturday. However, it said it was able to manage a 300-vehicle convoy and a “20-kilometer long car convoy from Quebec.” It also blocked a fuel delivery to downtown Ottawa.
The demonstrations at the Ambassador Bridge, downtown Ottawa and elsewhere have targeted vaccine mandates and other coronavirus restrictions and vented fury toward Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who has called the protesters a “fringe” of Canadian society.
The protests have reverberated outside the country, with similarly inspired convoys in France, New Zealand and the Netherlands, and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security warned that truck protests may be in the works in the United States.
Daniel Koss was among those who stayed overnight. Shortly before police advanced, he said the protest had succeeded in bringing attention to demands to lift COVID-19 mandates and he was happy it remained peaceful.
“It’s a win-win,” Koss said. “The pandemic is rolling down right now, they can remove the mandates, all the mandates, and everyone’s happy. The government does the right thing, and the protesters are all happy.”
He said he believed most people would disperse in an orderly fashion, “because we don’t want to cause a big problem.”
More protesters arrived to the area late Saturday morning, though, carrying flags and yelling. Police continued to back people away from the bridge, and there were no visible physical confrontations.
The previous day, a judged ordered an end to the blockade of mostly pickup trucks and cars, and Ontario Premier Doug Ford declared a state of emergency allowing for fines of 100,000 Canadian dollars and up to one year in jail for anyone illegally blocking roads, bridges, walkways and other critical infrastructure.
“The right to protest does not outweigh the right to get food, fuel and goods across our border,” he tweeted Friday. “That’s why we are ensuring our police have the tools and powers to resolve this situation and restore order.”
The Ambassador Bridge is the busiest U.S.-Canadian border crossing, carrying 25% of all trade between the two countries.
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