Police from London, Ontario, keep protestors against Covid-19 vaccine mandates from the entrance to the Ambassador Bridge in Windsor, Ontario, Canada, on February 12, 2022. - Police in Canada were positioning Saturday to clear the bridge on the US border, snarled for days by truckers protesting against vaccination rules, an AFP journalist observed. "We urge all demonstrators to act lawfully & peacefully," police in Windsor, Ontario, home to the Ambassador Bridge, tweeted in announcing the deployment. (Photo by JEFF KOWALSKY / AFP) (Photo by JEFF KOWALSKY/AFP via Getty Images)
Police clear last remaining protesters from key bridge between the U.S. and Canada
By Becky Sullivan/NPR
(Windsor, Ontario) — 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.
Enforcement actions continue at the demonstration area with arrests being made. Vehicles being towed. Please continue avoiding the area.
— Windsor Police (@WindsorPolice) February 13, 2022
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.