Canada police arrest protesters as key bridge to US remains shut

Protesters interact with police officers, who stand guard on a street after Windsor Police said they are starting to enforce a court order to clear truckers and supporters who have been protesting against coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine mandates by blocking access to the Ambassador Bridge, which connects Detroit and Windsor, in Windsor, Ontario, Canada February 12, 2022. REUTERS / Carlos Osorio

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WINDSOR, Ontario, Feb 13 (Reuters) – Canadian police said on Sunday they had arrested more protesters opposing COVID-19 restrictions and blocking a key trade route along the border with the United States, more than 24 hours after authorities moved in to impose a court order.

This comes after a tense standoff between Canadian police and demonstrators on Saturday, as the court order and threats of arrest have failed to end the blockade of the Ambassador Bridge in Windsor, Ontario, which entered its sixth day on Sunday.

“Enforcement actions continue at the demonstration area with arrests being made. Vehicles being towed. Please continue avoiding the area,” the Windsor Police said in a tweet on Sunday morning, without giving more details of how many had been arrested.

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Late on Saturday, Windsor Police arrested a 27-year-old man for a criminal offense in relation to the demonstration, making their first detention since the bridge siege started on Monday.

US President Joe Biden has asked Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to use federal powers to end the blockade of the Ambassador Bridge, North America’s busiest land border crossing. Since Monday, protesters in trucks, cars and vans have blocked traffic in both directions, choking the supply chain for Detroit’s carmakers.

Despite a court order to end the occupation and a state of emergency imposed by the province of Ontario, police have failed to disperse the crowd and resume cross-border traffic.

Police moved in early on Saturday, pushing protesters back from the foot of the bridge, but more people streamed into the area in the afternoon and the operation appeared to have stalled. “I am very hopeful still that police can … try and get to these folks in a reasonable way and have them understand that it’s time to move on,” Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens told CBC News. “We can no longer afford as a country to keep it closed.”

The bridge carries about $ 360 million a day in two-way cargoes – 25% of the value of all US-Canada goods trade.

Concrete barricades have been set up in front of the police near the bridge to keep protesters from reclaiming any ground.

The “Freedom Convoy” protests, started in the national capital Ottawa by Canadian truckers opposing a vaccinate-or-quarantine mandate for cross-border drivers, entered its 17th day on Sunday. But it has now morphed into a rallying point against broader COVID-19 curbs, carbon tax and other issues, with people joining in cars, pick-up trucks and farm vehicles.

Protests erupted across several cities in Canada on Saturday, with some 4,000 people in downtown Ottawa. Financial capital Toronto had some 1,000 demonstrators, though the police had shut key access roads to the central business district.

In the west, hundreds of protesters choked intersections along the Pacific Highway with vehicles leading to the Canada-US border crossing in South Surrey, British Columbia. Several, camped out near the border crossing, vowed to stay “as long as is needed” until all COVID-19 restrictions are lifted.

Strangling bilateral trade, protests have spread to three border points, including in Alberta and Manitoba.

Canadian police have said the protests have been partly funded by US supporters, and Ontario froze funds donated via one US platform GiveSendGo on Thursday.

Ford Motor Co (FN), the second-largest US automaker, General Motors Co (GM.N) and Toyota Motor Corp (7203.T) all have announced production cuts. Companies have diverted cargo to stem losses during the cuts.

The estimated loss so far from the blockades to the auto industry alone could be as high as $ 850 million, based on IHS Markit’s data, which puts the 2021 daily flow in vehicles and parts at $ 141.1 million a day.

“This is the busiest border crossing, so it’s not just automotive,” Mayor Dilkens said. “We are talking about things that impact the entire nation here. That’s why finding a resolution is so important.”

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Reporting by Kayla Tarnowski and Carlos Osorio in Windsor Writing by Denny Thomas Editing by William Mallard, Frances Kerry and Susan Fenton

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.


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