Date: Monday, February 14, 2022
Source: The Wall Street Journal
OTTAWA—Commercial and passenger traffic resumed Sunday night on a bridge connecting Detroit with the Canadian border city of Windsor, Ontario, after protesters shut down the corridor for roughly a week in a fight against Covid-19 restrictions.
The Detroit International Bridge Co., which operates the Ambassador Bridge, said all lanes were open for traffic as of 11 p.m. Eastern time. The Canada Border Services Agency said normal border processing had resumed but advised against nonessential travel.
Earlier Sunday, Canadian police arrested protesters and towed vehicles to clear access to the bridge. Protesters had succeeded in largely blocking most two-way bridge traffic since Feb. 7 in an attempt to persuade governments in Canada to drop Covid-19 vaccine mandates and related social restrictions.
The reopening of the Ambassador Bridge marks an end to a demonstration over Covid-19 restrictions that caused economic repercussions for North America and its automotive industry. Protests continue in Canada, most notably in Ottawa where truckers and their supporters have camped for 17 days and counting, disrupting life in the capital and prompting calls for political leaders, chief among them Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, to move swiftly to bring the chaos to an end.
Police began making arrests and towing vehicles shortly after 8 a.m. Eastern time Sunday on a main street that leads to access to the bridge, over which hundreds of millions of dollars of goods are transported by trucks into the U.S. and Canada each day. Hours later, protesters gathered in another location near an intersection that leads to the bridge, where police said further arrests were made.
Windsor Police Chief Pamela Mizuno said late Sunday afternoon that police had arrested between 25 and 30 protesters and towed about a dozen vehicles.
White House officials said on Sunday that they have been consulting closely with Canadian authorities, including a video teleconference between President Biden and Mr. Trudeau on Friday. While the U.S. Department of Homeland Security warned last week that truckers might try to disrupt the Super Bowl, the game kicked off without a hitch on Sunday.
A Canadian judge had earlier granted police permission to forcibly remove the protesters, following a petition from the City of Windsor and auto-industry representatives.
“Today, our national economic crisis at the Ambassador Bridge came to an end,” Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens said Sunday. “Border crossings will reopen when it is safe to do so and I defer to police and border agencies to make that determination.”
North American auto makers, including General Motors Co. , Stellantis NV, and Ford Motor Co. , have curtailed production over the past week and sent employees home in some cases because parts required for assembly couldn’t be delivered. Some Canadian auto-parts suppliers have also begun to reduce production because they have been unable to ship orders to the U.S.
Auto-industry representatives on Saturday applauded efforts by police in their initial efforts to clear access to the Ambassador Bridge.
Protest organizers in Ottawa have repeatedly said they won’t leave the capital until governments in Canada drop the vaccine mandates and social restrictions. Over 400 heavy-duty trucks and other vehicles have turned the capital’s downtown into a parking lot, clogging traffic in the core and disrupting residents’ lives. Some Windsor protesters said their blockade was inspired by events in Ottawa.
“The country needs the police to do their job…and restore order,” Bill Blair, Canada’s Emergency Preparedness Minister, told CTV News on Sunday. He added that federal officials have discussed the rarely-used powers available in Canada’s federal Emergencies Act to help end protests. The act permits the national government to impose temporary measures, such as deployment of the military, if it believes local authorities are unable to maintain security.
A separate blockade in southern Alberta has prevented traffic from moving between the Canadian village of Coutts, Alberta, and northern Montana since Feb. 8. Police said they have been issuing traffic tickets and made one arrest in the area on Saturday for impaired driving. Royal Canadian Mounted Police Cpl. Troy Savinkoff said on Sunday there were roughly 400 vehicles in the area, including commercial vehicles, farm equipment, campers and passenger vehicles.
At another Canadian border town, Fort Erie, Ontario, Canadian police on Sunday restricted traffic to the Peace Bridge, which crosses from the community into Buffalo, New York, after protesters attempted to block bridge traffic. Fort Erie Mayor Wayne Redekop said police weren’t allowing vehicles onto the bridge unless they were essential workers or had a legitimate commercial reason for traveling. He said town officials learned of a potential blockade through social-media posts, with protesters demanding an end to Covid-19 restrictions.
The Ambassador Bridge, one of the busiest border crossings in North America, accommodates roughly 30% of annual two-way U.S.-Canada trade, which recent U.S. data pegs at more than $600 billion. Two-way U.S.-Canada trade of over $28 billion in motor vehicles and auto parts was transported last year over the bridge, according to Statistics Canada.