- A heavy contingent of officers, supported by armored vehicles, made their way to the demonstration near Windsor, Ontario.
- Police stepped up their actions on Sunday by handcuffing bridge protesters, towing vehicles and clearing clogged lanes.
- Ambassador Bridge is vital to the US and Canadian auto industries, carrying over 25% of the goods exported by both countries.
WINDSOR: A Canadian mayor declared the stalemate on a major US border bridge on Sunday after police raided and arrested protesters, but the trucker-led movement against Covid-19 restrictions remained defiantly mobilized in the capital Ottawa and elsewhere.
A heavy contingent of officers, supported by armored vehicles, made their way to the demonstration near Windsor, Ontario, to clear the Ambassador Bridge, a major border crossing into the US city of Detroit, Michigan.
Authorities began their operation on Saturday, but several protesters remained, extending the protracted standoff and preventing traffic.
Police stepped up their actions on Sunday, handcuffing bridge protesters, towing vehicles and retaking clogged lanes, saying on Twitter that “there will be no tolerance for illegal activity”.
The road to the bridge had been cleared, but cross-border traffic had yet to be restored by midday.
“Today, our national economic crisis came to an end at the Ambassador Bridge,” Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens said in a statement, referring to the heavy toll on trade and other business from a blockade in effect since Monday.
“Border crossings will reopen when it is safe to do so and I will let the police and border agencies make that decision,” the mayor added.
The demonstrations have sparked copycat protests around the world, including in France, the Netherlands, Switzerland and Australia, and with some American truck drivers discussing a protest for March.
In Ontario, where authorities have declared a state of emergency, the provincial supreme court had ordered truck drivers to end their blockade of the Ambassador Bridge late in the week.
The protest has forced major automakers in both countries to shut down or scale back production.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who labeled the blockades “illegal”, promised that “this conflict must end”, but he has been increasingly criticized for not acting decisively.
Initially, no arrests were made at the bridge; but drivers were warned that they could face hefty fines, jail terms and loss of their license if they continued to block traffic.
Mayor Dilkens, apparently aware of the divisions caused by the protests, urged tolerance and respect.
“I strongly urge all provincial and federal leaders to refrain from any divisive political rhetoric and duplication of efforts to help all Canadians heal as we have seen nearly two years of pandemic lockdowns and restrictions,” he said. he.
The Ambassador Bridge is vital to the US and Canadian auto industries, carrying more than 25% of the goods exported by both countries.
Truck drivers originally came to Ottawa to push through their demand to end the vaccination requirement for truck drivers crossing the international border.
But the movement has spread as protesters now want to end all vaccine mandates, whether imposed by federal or provincial governments.
Ottawa has been the epicenter of protests. Police on Saturday estimated that some 4,000 protesters were still occupying the downtown area into the third weekend of the movement.
The atmosphere among the protesters was festive, with music, dancing and constant sound of air horns – but the noise, obstruction and sometimes rude and aggressive behavior of protesters has damaged businesses in the region and enraged many local residents.
However, the message from the truck drivers has resonated more than the authorities had expected.
A poll found that a third of Canadians support the protest movement.
The truck drivers have also found support among conservatives and opponents of vaccine mandates in other countries, even as Covid measures are being rolled back in many places.
In Paris, police fired tear gas on Saturday and arrested nearly 100 people in an attempt to break up convoys of vehicles from across France.
On Sunday, hundreds of them drove their self-proclaimed “freedom convoy” of cars and trucks north to Lille, bound for Brussels, where Belgian officials have already banned a demonstration for Monday.
A vehicle convoy in the Netherlands brought the center of The Hague to a halt in another Canadian-style protest.
In Switzerland, hundreds of protesters marched in Zurich to protest the Covid-19 restrictions, while several thousand others gathered against them, Swiss media reported. Police used tear gas, water cannons and rubber bullets to disperse the crowd.
An estimated 10,000 Australian protesters marched through the capital Canberra to reject vaccine mandates.