Police arrest last anti-vaccine protesters on US-Canada Bridge

Updated Sun 14:42

Today, police moved in to clear and arrest the remaining protesters near a key border bridge between the United States and Canada, trying to end one of the largest protests to erupt across the Canada and the world against Covid-19 vaccine mandates and other restrictions.

Windsor police said arrests were underway and vehicles were being towed just after dawn near the Ambassador Bridge connecting Detroit and Windsor, Ont. – the busiest border crossing into the United States. Television footage showed officers arresting protesters.

Two vans and less than a dozen protesters blocked the road leading to the bridge before police intervened. Afterwards, police barricades remained and it was not immediately clear when the bridge might be reopened.

Police yesterday persuaded protesters to move their vans and other cars they had used to the entrance to the crossing which sees 25% of all trade between the two countries, although it has remained closed.

In the capital, Ottawa, the ranks of protesters swelled to what police said were 4,000 protesters.

The city has seen this over the past weekend, and loud music played as people crowded downtown where anti-vaccine protesters have camped since late January.

The protests on the bridge, in Ottawa and elsewhere, have reverberated beyond the country, with similarly inspired convoys in France, New Zealand and the Netherlands, and the US Department of Homeland Security a warned that convoys of trucks could be in sight in the United States. .

A former minister in Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s cabinet has taken the unusual step of calling out her former federal colleagues as well as the province and city for failing to end the protests.

Protesters face police as officers enforce an injunction against their protest at the Ambassador Bridge in Ontario.

Source: Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press via AP

“Surprisingly, it’s not just Ottawa. This is the nation’s capital,” Catherine McKenna tweeted.

“But no one – not the city, not the province, not the federal government can seem to unite to end this illegal occupation. It’s appalling. Get together. Now.”

Trudeau has so far rejected calls to use the military, but said “all options are on the table” to end protests that have affected the economy on both sides of the border. The Prime Minister called the protesters a “fringe” of Canadian society.

Ottawa police said in a statement yesterday that a joint command center has been set up with the Ontario Provincial Police and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. They said it would bolster law enforcement capabilities that had been limited by “security issues – resulting from the aggressive and unlawful behavior of many protesters – limited law enforcement capabilities”.

Police earlier issued a statement calling the protest an illegal occupation and saying they were waiting for reinforcements before implementing a plan to end the protests.

Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson declared a state of emergency for the capital last week, where hundreds of trucks remained outside the Parliament Buildings and protesters had set up portable toilets outside the Prime Minister’s office where Trudeau’s motorcade usually parks.

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Police officers hold a line as protesters against Covid-19 restrictions march through Windsor, Ontario.

Source: Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press/AP

Even after the protesters’ vehicles withdrew, hundreds more arrived to reinforce the crowd and settled into a confrontation with police about two blocks away, waving flags and shouting. Although there were no visible physical clashes, the crowd still controlled the road leading to the bridge.

On Friday, a judge ordered an end to the blocking of most vans and cars, and Ontario Premier Doug Ford declared a state of emergency, authorizing fines of 100,000 Canadian dollars (€69,000) and up to to one year in prison for anyone who illegally blocks roads, bridges, sidewalks and other essential infrastructure.

With the bridge closed, car factories on both sides were forced to shut down or reduce production.

The standoff came at a time when the industry is already struggling to maintain production in the face of pandemic-induced computer chip shortages and other supply chain disruptions.

As protesters denounce vaccination mandates for truck drivers and other Covid-19 restrictions, many of Canada’s public health 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 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.

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