Canadian police acted on Sunday to clear and detain protesters near a major bridge on the border with the United States, who oppose vaccination mandates and other restrictions imposed by the coronavirus.
Television footage showed police arresting the few remaining protesters shortly after dawn on the Ambassador Bridge, which connects Detroit to Windsor, Ont., and is the busiest crossing point between the two countries.
Windsor Police reported that 12 people were arrested and seven vehicles were towed.
Only two trucks and less than twenty demonstrators blocked access to the bridge before the police began their actions. Shortly after, police barriers were in place and it was unclear when the bridge would be open again.
On Saturday, the police convinced the demonstrators to withdraw their trucks and other vehicles which were blocking the bridge through which 25% of trade between the two countries passes.
In the capital, Ottawa, there were around 4,000 protesters, according to police. In recent days, discontent has grown in the city due to weeks of protests, booming music and encampments in the center of the capital.
On Sunday in Ottawa, a counter-protest erupted from neighbors who tried to block trucks from entering downtown.
The protests on the bridge, in Ottawa and across the country have had repercussions abroad. Similar caravans have sprung up in France, New Zealand and the Netherlands. US authorities have warned that similar protests could take place in the country.
A former cabinet minister in Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government has taken the unusual step of slamming her former government colleagues for failing to take action to end the unrest.
“Incredibly, this is not just happening in Ottawa, which is the capital of our country,” tweeted former cabinet minister Catherine McKenna. “And yet no one — not the city, not the province, not the federal government — seems capable of ending this illegal occupation. It’s unbelievable… They have to organize themselves. Now”.
Trudeau has so far rejected calls for the deployment of the armed forces, although he stressed that “all options are on the table” and called the protesters “extremists” on the fringes of Canadian society.
Ottawa police said in a statement Saturday that a joint command center has been established in conjunction with the Ontario Provincial Police and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Officials said it would bolster enforcement capabilities that had been limited by “security concerns – resulting from the aggressive and illegal behavior of many protesters – by limiting the ability of police to act.”
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.
“We will continue to enforce order in the protest area and there will be zero tolerance for any illegal activity. Citizens should stay away from the area,” Windsor Police said.
Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson declared a state of emergency for the capital last week, where hundreds of trucks lined up outside the Parliament Buildings and protesters set up portable toilets outside the Premier’s office minister, where Trudeau’s motorcade usually parks.
It was unclear when the bridge would reopen, but Windsor Mayor Drew Kiklens expressed hope it would be within hours.
“Today the national economic crisis that we endured on the Ambassador Bridge is over,” Kiklens said afterwards.
“Border crossings will resume when it is safe to do so, and I will leave that decision up to police and border agencies,” he added.
The blockades have caused great anger among the population.
“The whole town is furious to be abandoned by the people who are supposed to protect us. They have completely abandoned law enforcement. Ottawa police failed,” tweeted Artur Wilczynski, a national security official at Canada’s Department of Security and Communications.
At the western end of North America, another blockade arose; between Surrey, British Columbia and Blaine, Washington.
It came a day after Canadian authorities reported that a few vehicles broke through police barriers and a crowd entered the area on foot.
Canadian police released a statement saying that while no one was injured in the incident, the actions were dangerous and are being investigated.
A householder reported from Windsor, Gillies from Toronto and Ted Shaffrey from Ottawa.