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Canada police arrest protesters in bid to clear border bridge

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Canadian police detain a protestor as they clear demonstrators against Covid-19 vaccine mandates who blocked the entrance to the Ambassador Bridge in Windsor, Ontario./AFP
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Feb 13, 2022 - 10:05 PM

WINDSOR, CANADA — Canadian police resumed operations Sunday to clear a key US border bridge occupied by trucker-led demonstrators angry over Covid-19 restrictions, as authorities began making arrests in their bid to quell a movement that has also paralyzed downtown Ottawa.

“Enforcement actions continue” at the Ambassador Bridge, police in the city of Windsor, Ontario said in a tweet, adding that authorities have also begun towing vehicles.

“There will be zero tolerance for illegal activity,” they added.

Police had begun their operation on Saturday, moving deliberately as they worked to clear the major border crossing to the US city of Detroit, Michigan.

They succeeded in clearing one major intersection. But some demonstrators remained, extending the protracted standoff and preventing traffic from flowing.

Early Sunday, police were seen placing a bridge protester in handcuffs and leading him away.

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

In Ontario, where authorities have declared a state of emergency, the provincial supreme court had ordered truckers to end their blockade of the Ambassador Bridge.

The protest has forced major automakers in both countries to halt or scale back production.

Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has promised that “this conflict must end,” but he has faced mounting criticism for failing to act more decisively.

The clearing operation on the bridge has involved Canadian police, backed by armored vehicles.

Initially, no arrests were made; but drivers were warned that they potentially face major fines, jail time and loss of their driver’s licenses if they continued blocking traffic.

4,000 protesters 

But by Saturday evening, the police had not completely cleared the span.

The Ambassador Bridge is vital to the US and Canadian auto industries, carrying more than 25 percent of merchandise exported by both countries.

Truckers originally converged on Ottawa to press their demand for an end to a vaccination requirement affecting truckers crossing the international border.

But the movement has spread, as the protesters now seek an end to all vaccine mandates, whether imposed by the federal or provincial governments.

Ottawa has been the epicenter of protests. Police on Saturday estimated that some 4,000 demonstrators were still occupying the center city, in the third weekend of the movement.

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 truckers’ message, however, has resonated more widely than authorities expected.

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

The truckers have also found support among conservatives and vaccine mandate opponents across the globe, even as Covid measures are being rolled back in many places.

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

A vehicle convoy in the Netherlands brought The Hague’s city center to a standstill in another Canada-style protest.

In Switzerland, hundreds of protesters marched in Zurich to protest Covid-19 restrictions, while several thousand others rallied against them, Swiss media reported. Police used tear gas, water cannons and rubber bullets to disperse the crowds.

An estimated 10,000 Australian protesters marched through the capital Canberra to decry vaccine mandates.

And in New Zealand, anti-mandate activists have been camped near the parliament in Wellington for days in a protest inspired by the Canadian convoy.

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