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Transportation & Infrastructure

Police clear out truckers, but protesters on foot keep U.S.-Canada bridge closed

A man waves a Canadian and American flag as protesters block the access leading from the Ambassador Bridge, linking Detroit and Windsor, Ontario, on Friday.
Nathan Denette
/
The Canadian Press via AP
A man waves a Canadian and American flag as protesters block the access leading from the Ambassador Bridge, linking Detroit and Windsor, Ontario, on Friday.

Updated February 12, 2022 at 3:25 PM ET

After police stepped in Saturday, protesters in trucks and other vehicles left a bridge between the United States and Canada, marking a potential turning point in the fifth day of protests that have disrupted a crucial border trade crossing.

But as of Saturday afternoon, hundreds of protesters were walking around the Ambassador Bridge in Windsor, Ontario, according to The Detroit News — a significant increase from the morning, when only a few dozen were present. It was unclear when the bridge would reopen.

Throughout the week, hordes of truckers parked pickup and semis across the bridge, protesting Canada's COVID-19 vaccine mandate and additional public health precautions that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau implemented.

"Enforcement continuing, individuals who are located within the demonstration area are subject to arrest. People are advised to immediately vacate the area," Windsor police tweeted just a few hours after announcing it had "commenced enforcement" at the bridge.

The process of beginning to remove the truckers marks a change from Friday night when the crowds grew in size, disregarding federal orders to disperse.

On Friday, Ontario Premier Doug Ford declared a state of emergency — signaling that any protesters arrested would be met with fines reaching $100,000 and could face up to a year in jail.

The order prompted Ontario Superior Court Chief Justice Geoffrey Morawetz to intervene, issuing an injunction that gave protesters until 7 p.m. Friday to leave without facing punishment.

But many truckers stayed, deciding to continue the blockade through the night.

The blockade has hampered automakers

The Ambassador Bridge marks a key border crossing — a fourth of U.S.-Canada trade passes through it.

The blockade has particularly worsened supply-chain problems and caused production delays across the auto industry.

Major automakers, including General Motors, Ford and Stellantis, were forced to cancel shifts or reduce capacity at locations in Michigan and Ontario.

Canada has seen a frenzy of similar protests over the past weeks, including within the capital city of Ottawa and at U.S. border crossings in Alberta and Manitoba.

"I want to make something very clear," Trudeau said in an address Friday night. "The illegal blockades seeking to take our neighborhoods and our economy hostage, and that collective COVID fatigue we are facing, are two very separate things. If you joined the protests because you're tired of COVID, you now need to understand you're breaking laws.

"We've heard your frustration with COVID, with the measures that are there to keep people safe," Trudeau added, "We've heard you. It's time to go home now."

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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