Police arrest remaining protesters at US-Canada bridge
Police moved in to clear and arrest the remaining protesters near the busiest US-Canadian border crossing on Sunday, ending a demonstration against Covid-19 restrictions that has impacted the economies of both nations.
The action happened even as officers held back from cracking down on a larger protest in the capital, Ottawa.
Local and national police formed a joint command centre in Ottawa, where protests have paralysed the city centre, infuriated residents who are fed up with police inaction and turned up pressure on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
The protests have reverberated across the country and beyond, with similar convoys in France, New Zealand and the Netherlands. The US department of homeland security warned that truck convoys may be in the offing in the United States.
Windsor police said about 12 people were peacefully arrested and seven vehicles were towed away just after dawn near the Ambassador Bridge that links their city – and numerous Canadian car plants – with Detroit.
It was not immediately clear when the bridge might reopen but Windsor’s mayor Drew Kiklens said he hoped it would be on Sunday.
“Today, our national economic crisis at the Ambassador Bridge came to an end,” he added later.
“Border crossings will reopen when it is safe to do so and I defer to police and border agencies to make that determination.”
Only a few protesters had remained after police on Saturday persuaded demonstrators to move their pickup trucks and others cars that they had used to block a crossing that sees 25% of all trade between the two countries.
US President Joe Biden’s administration on Sunday acknowledged the seemingly peaceful resolution to the demonstration, which it said had had “widespread damaging impacts” on the “lives and livelihoods of people” on both sides of the border.
“We stand ready to support our Canadian partners wherever useful in order to ensure the restoration of the normal free flow of commerce can resume,” homeland security advisor Dr Liz Sherwood-Randall said in a statement.
In Ottawa, the ranks of protesters swelled to what police said were 4,000 demonstrators by Saturday, and a counter-protest of frustrated Ottawa residents attempting to block the convoy of trucks from entering the city centre emerged on Sunday.
The city has seen similar expansions of the protest on past weekends, and loud music played as people milled about the city centre where anti-vaccine demonstrators have been encamped since late January.
“The whole city is furious at being abandoned by the people who are supposed to protect us. They have completely abandoned the rule of law. @OttawaPolice have lost credibility. #OttawaPoliceFailed,” tweeted Artur Wilczynski, a senior government national security official at Canada’s Communications Security Establishment.
A former minister in Mr Trudeau’s cabinet also blasted her former federal colleagues as well as the province and city for not putting an end to the protests.
“Amazingly, this isn’t just Ottawa. It’s the nation’s capital,” Catherine McKenna tweeted.
“But no-one – not the city, the province or the federal government can seem to get their act together to end this illegal occupation. It’s appalling. Just get your act together. Now.”
Police earlier issued a statement calling the protest an unlawful occupation and saying they were waiting for reinforcements before implementing a plan to end the demonstrations.
On the other side of the country, a major truck border crossing between Surrey, British Columbia, and Blaine, Washington, was closed on Sunday, a day after Canadian authorities said a few vehicles had breached police barricades and a crowd entered the area by foot.
A border crossing in Alberta also remained closed.
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