Truckers ‘Freedom Convoy’ Protests Disrupt Ambassador Bridge on U.S.-Canada Border

Date: Wednesday, February 9, 2022
Source: The Wall Street Journal

Protesters fighting Covid-19 vaccine mandates temporarily stopped two-way traffic on the busiest international land-border crossing in North America, as a nearly two-week demonstration in Ottawa threatened to expand and disrupt U.S.-Canada trade.

Authorities in Canada and the U.S. said the Ambassador Bridge, a 1.6-mile corridor that connects Detroit with Windsor, Ontario, was temporarily closed late Monday night because of a demonstration by truckers and their supporters. The protesters are calling for governments to rescind Covid-19 policies requiring individuals to be fully vaccinated to enter restaurants and gyms or to board planes and trains.

About 600 people in heavy-duty trucks, sport-utility vehicles and pickup trucks assembled on a major north-south corridor leading to the bridge, according to a witness.

A spokeswoman for the Ambassador Bridge said that the bridge was opened early Tuesday for vehicles traveling from Windsor to Detroit, but that traffic was significantly reduced. She said most commercial vehicles are diverting north to Sarnia, Ontario, where the Blue Water Bridge crosses the St. Clair River to Port Huron, Michigan.

A spokeswoman for the Canada Border Services Agency said entry into Canada via Ambassador Bridge remains closed. A representative for the U.S. Customs and Border Protection didn’t return a request for comment. A spokeswoman for Michigan’s Transportation Department said the bridge closure caused significant congestion on freeways through the Detroit area.

Windsor’s police chief, Pamela Mizuno, told a local radio station that police officers have issued some tickets and talked with demonstrators, but it is unclear how long the protest will continue.

The U.S. Department of Transportation says Ambassador Bridge is the busiest international land-border crossing in North America, accommodating roughly 30% of the two-way annual trade between Canada and the U.S., which the latest U.S. data indicates was over $600 billion.

Much of the focus in Canada and globally has been on a protest in Ottawa, now entering its 12th day, in which some 500 trucks are parked in the Canadian capital’s core. The protesters, organized by truckers and their supporters in western Canada under the banner Freedom Convoy 2022, have clogged traffic in the city and disrupted residents’ day-to-day lives, and have vowed to stay until governments in Canada drop all vaccine mandates—including one that applies to truckers.

Now, similar disruptions threaten to impose a chokehold on key U.S.-Canada trade routes. Before Monday’s protest at the Detroit-Windsor crossing, another group of truckers initially blocked access to a border crossing in western Canada, connecting the province of Alberta with Montana. The protesters remain, although some cross-border traffic is now flowing.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the protests were leading to “sporadic congestion and blockages” and that the Biden administration was in touch with its counterparts in Canada, but she declined to comment on any specific steps being taken in response.

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