Police move in to break up a protest at the Ambassador Bridge in Windsor, Ont., on Saturday morning. The protest by truckers has been blocking traffic between the city and Detroit since Monday. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)
Police are breaking up a days-long protest at the Ambassador Bridge in Windsor, Ont., where vehicles have been blocking traffic on the crucial border crossing into the United States.
But four hours after Windsor police tweeted that they were moving in, some protesters still appear reluctant to leave.
“We urge all demonstrators to act lawfully and peacefully,” Windsor police said as officers started to move in with other law enforcement at about 8:30 a.m. on Saturday.
They also advised people to stay away from the area.
While some protesters left immediately, a small group remained as of early afternoon. Late Saturday morning, police formed a line and were steadily pushing back the demonstrators, some of whom were shouting “shame,” “freedom” and “you’re on the wrong side.”
And there are reports that more people are arriving.
Most of the big rigs cleared out Saturday morning, with many laying on their horns as they left.
Windsor police tweeted on Saturday morning that they hadn’t arrested anyone, but “any vehicle parked on private property without permission may be subject to tow.”
People have been parked at the bridge, which links Windsor and Detroit, since Monday, opposing COVID-19 public health measures such as vaccine mandates. They have been bracing for police enforcement since 7 p.m. on Friday, after Ontario Superior Court Chief Justice Geoffrey B. Morawetz granted an injunction demanding they clear the bridge.
WATCH | Police move in to clear protesters blocking bridge:
Police move to clear protesters blocking the Ambassador Bridge in Windsor, Ont.
3 hours ago
Police have moved in to break up a days-long protest at the Ambassador Bridge in Windsor, Ont., where vehicles have been blocking traffic on the crucial border crossing into the U.S. On Saturday morning, police formed a line and were steadily pushing back the demonstrators. 9:58
After the injunction was issued, people gathered at the Ambassador Bridge told CBC News that they were determined.
“Bring it,” said Chris Mayville when he heard about the injunction. “Do you think I care? Do you think I care about a fine? I’m going to pay a fine? No. You think I care about their mandates? No. This needs to end.
“I’m going to stay until the arrests.”
It was a sentiment shared by others blocking the bridge in a protest that’s snarled cross-border traffic for almost a week. Some said they were determined to dig in and continue the blockade, whether or not they were confronted by law enforcement. About 100 protesters remained as of Saturday morning.
Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens told CBC News on Friday that the goal is to have the protesters leave voluntarily, “but if they refuse to leave, steps will have to be taken to remove them.”
Wave of protests
John Wiebe, a Kitchener truck driver whose rig was encamped near the intersection at the main protest point at the bridge, said Friday that he didn’t know what he would do if police told him to leave.
But he said he believed any potential legal consequences could be worth it.
“If all these mandates get lifted, sure, throw some of us in prison,” he said.
The Ambassador Bridge border crossing is pictured on Friday. The protest in Windsor is part of a growing number of truck convoy demonstrations that began in Ottawa and have since spread to other cities. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)
The protest is part of a growing number of truck convoy demonstrations that began in Ottawa two weeks ago and have since spread to other cities. The protesters say they want governments to lift vaccine mandates and other public health measures related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Rick Armstrong said Friday that he would have no problem being issued a ticket or fine by police and would view it as a badge of honour.
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“I will hang it on my wall with pride. I will be able to show it to my granddaughter and say where [I was] on this day, I was here — fighting for your freedoms,” he said.
“I will ask the officer if they’re kind enough to write me a ticket, ‘What are [you] going to say to [your] children?'”
Auto sector affected
The injunction was sought by several auto groups, including the Automotive Parts Manufacturers’ Association, which has argued that the protest blocking traffic along the major U.S.-Canada trade route is costing the sector tens of millions of dollars each day.
But it’s a concern that doesn’t seem to register with many of those taking part in or supporting the blockade.
Jill Goodman, who works for a manufacturing company in Windsor, said Friday that the blockade has been the only effective way to get the attention of policy-makers.
“We’re not being listened to any other way,” she said.
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Armstrong said the blockade is the only tool they have, noting that they have been losing money and their livelihoods for two years.
Wiebe said he understands that the blockade is having a significant financial impact on companies and that it’s hurting the trucking company he works for as well.
But he points to all the businesses that have suffered from mandates, which, when lifted, would be an economic benefit to all, he said.
“Sometimes you got to lose money to make money,” he said.