Canada police clear key border bridge but protests still crippling Ottawa

By AFP   February 13, 2022 | 07:18 pm PT
Canada police clear key border bridge but protests still crippling Ottawa
Protestors confront the Ontario Provincial Police as they try to clear the entrance to the Ambassador Bridge in Windsor, Ontario, Canada. Photo by AFP
Canadian police on Sunday cleared a key U.S. border bridge occupied by trucker-led demonstrators angry over Covid-19 restrictions, towing vehicles and making "several" arrests in their bid to quell a movement that has also paralyzed downtown Ottawa.
"Today, our national economic crisis at the Ambassador Bridge came to an end," Drew Dilkens, mayor of Windsor, Ontario, said in a statement. "Border crossings will re-open when it is safe to do so."

White House national security advisor Liz Sherwood-Randall said US and Canadian officials recognized "the imperative of taking swift, strong action and deterring future blockades."

The demonstrations have inspired copycat protests around the globe, including in France, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Australia and New Zealand, and with some US truckers discussing a protest for March.

"Enough is enough," Bill Blair told the CBC. "This has to come to an end. The situation in Ottawa is unacceptable and intolerable, and the police need to restore order and enforce the law in that city."

Blair said the federal government, working with the provinces, was prepared to do "whatever is required in order to bring the situation back under control."

'Zero tolerance'

No arrests were initially made and drivers were warned that they potentially faced major fines, jail time and loss of their licenses if they continued blocking traffic, but some stood fast.

They were seen placing at least one bridge protester in handcuffs.

Amid widespread criticism of the time it took to clear the vital transit point, which carries 25 percent of all merchandise exported by both countries, the Windsor police defended their "progressive approach."

Copycat protests

But their demands have grown. The protesters now seek an end to all vaccine mandates, whether imposed by the federal or provincial governments.

The atmosphere among protesters has been festive, with music, dancing and constant sounding of air horns, but the noise, obstruction and sometimes rude and aggressive behavior of demonstrators has harmed area businesses and infuriated many locals.

The potential deal between Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson and protest organizer Tamara Lich still needs the truckers' approval, however.

One opinion survey found that a third of Canadians support the protest movement.

In Paris on Saturday, police fired tear gas and issued more than 300 fines in an effort to break up convoys of vehicles coming from across France.

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