Canadian police arrest for the first time as protesters continue to block the main bridge leading to the United States
Canadian police made the first arrests of a protester who blocked a major bridge to the United States on Saturday, more than a day after authorities moved to seek an end to a blockade of an important trade corridor.
Demonstrators against the government’s pandemic restrictions occupied the Ambassador Bridge for the fifth day in a row, disrupting international trade and prompting President Joe Biden to call for an end to the blockade. But there was still no sign of when traffic would resume.
Late Saturday, Windsor Police arrested a 27-year-old man for a criminal offense related to the protest.
As police managed to push back protesters from under the Ambassador Bridge, which connects Detroit and Windsor, more people were flocking to the area and the operation appeared to have stalled.
As the afternoon wore on, some Canadians questioned the reason for the delay, given the court’s order on Friday to end the blockade and impose a state of emergency declared by Ontario authorities.
“It’s basically going to send the message that the state is unable to maintain control, as it has tried to do so,” Michael Kemba, associate professor of criminology at the University of Ottawa, told CBC News.
“The longer that goes on, the longer the idea that what they’re doing isn’t an illegal protest,” he said.
The Ambassador Bridge is the busiest land crossing in North America. Since Monday, protesters in trucks, cars and vans have blocked traffic in both directions, choking the supply chain for Detroit automakers.
The “Freedom Caravan” protests, launched by Canadian truck drivers in the capital, Ottawa, against the mandate to vaccinate or quarantine drivers across the border, entered their 16th day on Saturday. It has turned into a broader protest against COVID-19 restrictions, with people joining smaller vehicles, including cars, vans and vans.
During a meeting of his top advisers on Saturday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau stressed that border crossings cannot and will not remain closed, and that all options remain on the table, a statement from his office said.
Early Saturday, Windsor Police urged protesters to act legally and peacefully. The officers in black uniforms and yellow jackets moved behind the protesters’ cars, accompanied by police cruisers, slowly advancing on the protesters, pushing them back from the bridge entrance.
Escalation of protests Ottawa reduced the number of demonstrators to about twenty demonstrators in the early hours of Saturday morning from about 200 on Friday evening.
“We are opening this intersection to traffic. If you don’t follow our instructions, you will be arrested,” police told the crowd over a megaphone.
The protesters returned in a noisy but peaceful retreat, dismantling tents and barbecues. But eyewitnesses said the police had made no progress since then. Concrete barriers were erected in front of the police near the Safir Bridge to prevent protesters from reclaiming any land.
About 4,000 protesters gathered in downtown Ottawa on Saturday, with some tearing down the fence around the National War Memorial. Ottawa Police has established a new command center made up of the Federal and Provincial Police to respond to the escalation.
The protests have spread to other border points, including two smaller crossings in Alberta and Manitoba and the Pacific Highway border crossing in British Columbia, stifling trade between the two countries.
Canadian police said the protests were partly funded by US supporters and Ontario froze funds donated via one US platform, Jeff Sindjo, on Thursday.
The Toronto Dominion Bank has frozen two personal bank accounts in which 1.4 million Canadian dollars ($1.1 million) were deposited to support protesters.
The protests inspired similar convoys and plans in the United States, France, New Zealand and Australia.
In Paris, French police fired tear gas at protesters on the Champs Elysees on Saturday shortly after a convoy carrying protesters against COVID-19 restrictions arrived in the capital.
Ford, the second-largest US automaker, General Motors and Toyota Motor Corporation have all announced production cuts. Companies shifted merchandise to reduce losses amid production cuts.
The estimated loss from blockades for the auto industry alone could be as high as $700 million, based on IHS Markit data, which puts the daily flow of vehicles and parts at $141.1 million per day in 2021.