Police clear last remaining protesters from key bridge between the U.S. and Canada

Police from London, Ontario, block protesters from the Ambassador Bridge on Saturday.
(Jeff Kowalsky/AFP via Getty Images)

Police from London, Ontario, block protesters from the Ambassador Bridge on Saturday. (Jeff Kowalsky/AFP via Getty Images)

The Ambassador Bridge, the busiest border crossing between the U.S. and Canada, has moved an important step closer to reopening after police cleared and arrested a lingering group of protesters demonstrating against COVID-19 vaccine mandates.

Police in Windsor, Ontario, the Canadian municipality just across the bridge from Detroit, said early Sunday that “arrests [were] being made” and “vehicles [were] being towed.” They urged the public to avoid the area of the bridge.

The bridge, which carries about a quarter of all trade between the U.S. and Canada, has been blockaded for nearly a week by protesters, some driving semi-trucks, others in private vehicles and many on foot. The protest has disrupted economic activity and closed car factories on both sides of the border.

After a court ordered protesters to end their blockade by 7 p.m. Friday, not all left. Authorities warned that remaining protesters would be subject to arrest.

On Saturday, police ticketed and towed vehicles and arrested at least one person, a 27-year-old man.

By early Sunday, the protest had shrunk to just about a dozen protesters. Television footage and video on social media appeared to show officers detaining protesters and continuing to barricade the bridge. It was not clear when the bridge would reopen.

“Enforcement will continue in the demonstration area and there will be zero tolerance for illegal activity,” said the Windsor police on Twitter.

The bridge is a major gateway for trade

The Ambassador Bridge, four lanes across and more than a mile long, is a major economic route. About 8,000 trucks cross the bridge each day, collectively carrying hundreds of millions of dollars worth of goods.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce had warned that the blockade was adding to “significant supply chain strains.”

That included the auto industry, with dozens of manufacturing plants across Michigan, Ohio and Canada that rely on car parts ferried across the bridge. Shifts at at least six factories were canceled this past week, including Ford, Toyota, General Motors and Stellantis.

Protesters have also blocked border crossings in the provinces of Manitoba and Albert, along with another bridge in Ontario about 60 miles north of the Ambassador Bridge.

Streets remain clogged in Ottawa

In Ottawa, the epicenter of the protests, thousands of truckers and drivers have clogged downtown streets in a demonstration that has now lasted weeks.

On Friday, Ontario Premier Doug Ford declared a state of emergency and threatened fines of 100,000 Canadian dollars and up to a year in jail for anyone illegally blocking roads or other critical infrastructure.

Ford said that Ottawa was “on track to remove almost all restrictions for businesses very soon,” including the vaccine passport system that requires people to show proof of vaccination when entering certain businesses.

“This is great news and a sign of just how far we’ve come together in this fight,” he said, saying that the announcement was unrelated to the trucker convoy protest.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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