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Ambassador Bridge reopens between U.S. and Canada

Officials on Sunday declared an end to the weeklong anti-vaccination protest blockade of the crucial trade route.
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The Ambassador Bridge, a crucial roadway for U.S.-Canadian trade, reopened late Sunday after authorities cleared a weekend blockade mounted by protesters unhappy about vaccine mandates.

The Detroit International Bridge Company, the owner and operator of the structure, said in a statement that the bridge was again "allowing the free flow of commerce between the Canada and US economies."

Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens had proclaimed the end of the demonstration earlier in the day.

"Today, our national economic crisis at the Ambassador bridge came to an end," he said in a statement Sunday afternoon.

After a day of snowfall, temperatures in the teens, 25 to 30 arrests, and the seizure of five vehicles, Pam Mizuno, deputy chief of police in the border port city of Windsor, Ontario, echoed that declaration during an afternoon press conference, even as the bridge remained closed at the time.

In a tweet early Monday, Mizuno praised her officers as well as those from outside agencies, adding, “I am very thankful for today’s peaceful outcome.”  

A few remaining protesters were subject to arrest if they occupy areas off-limits or try to to block roadways, she indicated.

"There may be a cat-and-mouse situation for a while," she said.

Authorities also had to deal with concrete barriers, known as K-rails, that were installed near the entrance of the bridge Saturday, apparently to prevent vehicles from supplementing the blockade and help police corral demonstrators away from the structure.

While the deputy chief reiterated the service's stance of zero tolerance for "any activity" in the area, the deputy chief said protesters do have a right to voice their concerns in a legal manner, such as by staying on sidewalks.

Police officers began to disperse protesters Saturday after Chief Justice Geoffrey Morawetz of Ontario Superior Court ordered them to leave at a hearing Friday.

After some success Saturday the demonstration appeared to be breaking up before the crowd swelled again before nightfall. An overnight front bringing snow may have helped authorities as the number of protesters dwindled and officers made arrests Sunday.

The demonstrations in Windsor started Feb. 7 and were effective in creating at least partial blockades of cross-border traffic there throughout the week.

On Saturday the office of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Ontario Provincial Police and Royal Canadian Mounted Police were assisting local authorities.

The Ottawa Police Service, largely alone in its battle to free the capital from the grip of demonstrators and truck drivers who had locked up street traffic, announced Saturday that provincial authorities, along with the RCMP, were now part of "an enhanced, Integrated Command Centre" dedicated to ending what Ottawa Police Chief Peter Sloly has described as a "siege."

At the border, Windsor and lawyers for auto parts makers had successfully argued that the blockade was causing undue economic harm for the city and the region by disrupting the flow of traffic and goods, as well as by forcing the auto industry on both sides to roll back production.

The closure of the bridge, which carries more than one-fourth of the trade between the U.S. and Canada, has affected an estimated $392.56 million a day in cross-border transactions.

Ramps to the bridge had been closed on the U.S. side, Michigan State Police tweeted in the morning.

The Windsor demonstration is one of multiple spinoffs tied to truckers’ “Freedom Convoy,” which started out against vaccination mandates for truckers crossing the U.S.-Canada border and has evolved into opposition to Trudeau’s government and pandemic restrictions.

The main protest is in its third weekend in Canada’s capital, Ottawa, where hundreds of protesters have used their trucks to block streets, blare their horns and disrupt traffic.

On Saturday, demonstrators also temporarily shut down smaller border crossings in Surrey, British Columbia; Emerson, Manitoba; and Coutts, Alberta, according to the Canadian Broadcasting Corp.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford declared a state of emergency Friday, saying he would use all government resources to end the two-week protest. He said the protests amounted to a “siege” of downtown Ottawa and the Ambassador Bridge.

The protests have reverberated outside the country, inspiring similar convoys in Europe and New Zealand.

Demonstrators in Canada have also sparked a backlash both in Ottawa and across the country over allegations of harassment, as well as the presence of hate symbols, including at least one Confederate flag bearing swastikas.

A majority of Canadians oppose the truckers’ actions, according to an Ipsos poll.