Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press via AP
WINDSOR, Ontario – Canadian police intervened Saturday to evict protesters at the border bridge that has disrupted trade between Canada and the United States.
Protesters at the busiest border crossing between the United States and Canada have remained despite fresh warnings to end the blockade that has disrupted the flow of goods between the two countries and forced the auto industry on both sides to reduce its production.
A city bus and a school bus arrived at the scene Saturday morning and police moved in formation towards them. One of the demonstrators used a megaphone to alert others that police were coming for the demonstrators, who are protesting against Canada’s COVID-19 mandates and restrictions. There is also a wave of fury towards Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
“Windsor Police and their law enforcement partners have begun law enforcement on and near the Ambassador Bridge. We urge all protesters to act lawfully and peacefully. Commuters are still asked to avoid areas affected by protests. at this time,” police tweeted.
About 20 protesters moved outside early Saturday, while others remained in their vans and other cars. A judge on Friday ordered protesters on the Ambassador Bridge over the US-Canada border to end the blockade which has now entered a sixth day.
On Friday, Ontario Premier Doug Ford declared a state of emergency in the province, which will allow his cabinet to impose fines of $100,000 and up to a year in prison to punish those who continue to unlawfully block roads, bridges, walkways and other critical infrastructure.
Chief Justice Geoffrey Morawetz of the Ontario Superior Court issued an injunction giving protesters blocking cross-border traffic until 7 p.m. Friday to clear. However, the deadline has come and gone.
Windsor Police immediately warned that anyone blocking the streets could face arrest and their vehicles could be impounded.
The news was earlier met with defiance by protesters.
At the Ambassador Bridge, an unidentified person grabbed a microphone and addressed the crowd, asking if they wanted to stay or go when the deadline rolled around. By a show of applause, it was agreed that they would stay. “Okay,” the man said. “Let’s stand.” The demonstrators responded by singing the Canadian national anthem.
The Ambassador Bridge is the busiest US-Canada border crossing, carrying 25% of all trade between the two countries. The standoff comes at a time when the auto industry is already struggling to maintain production in the face of pandemic-induced computer chip shortages and other supply chain disruptions.
As Canadian protesters decry vaccination mandates for truckers and other COVID-19 restrictions, many of the country’s infection measures, such as mask rules and vaccination passports to enter restaurants and theaters, are already falling as omicron’s thrust stabilizes.
Pandemic restrictions have been much stricter in Canada than in the United States, but Canadians have largely supported them. The vast majority of Canadians are vaccinated, and the death rate from COVID-19 is one-third that of the United States.