Ambassador Bridge officially reopens after 7 days of protest

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Windsor – Hours after Canadian police removed protesters who had been camping near the Ambassador Bridge, a critical U.S.-Canada border crossing, for nearly a week, the bridge has reopened to traffic and commerce, the company that owns the bridge announced. and Canadian authorities.

“The Detroit International Bridge Company is pleased to announce that the Ambassador Bridge is now fully open, once again allowing the free flow of commerce between the Canadian and U.S. economies,” Esther Jentzen, a bridge representative, said in an email to 11 a.m.: 5 p.m. “This action follows a declared state of emergency in Ontario and an injunction granted by an Ontario judge which took effect on Friday.”

Around midnight, the Canada Border Services Agency announced that normal border processing had resumed at the bridge.

“Non-essential travel is not advised,” he tweeted.

With the announcements, the agency’s website for border wait times showed “No delays” for entry to the Ambassador Bridge for the first time in a week.

Throughout the protest, the bridge company supported the truckers by providing meals and coffee to keep them alive during the unpredictable wait time.

The bridge had been blocked to traffic in Canada since Monday night, when a protest at the Capitol in Ottawa spread to other cities across the country. Protests over COVID-19 restrictions and the vaccination mandate for truckers have threatened the economies of both countries, the countries’ leaders said.

“Today our national economic crisis at the Ambassador Bridge came to an end,” Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens said. “Border crossings will reopen when it is safe to do so, and I defer to police and border agencies to make that decision.”

Windsor Police Department Chief Pam Mizuno said 25 to 30 arrests were made during the crackdown and 12 vehicles were seized that were in or near the blockade on Huron Church Road near the bridge. Authorities have not disclosed the number of police deployed.

The protesters who were arrested face criminal mischief charges, Canadian authorities said. Ontario officials said they would fine protesters who block the bridge up to $100,000 and sentence them to up to a year in prison. They are also reportedly considering revoking the personal or commercial driver’s licenses of anyone who defies orders.

“I’m very grateful for today’s peaceful outcome,” Mizuno tweeted Sunday night. “This would not have been possible without the professionalism and dedication of all of our law enforcement partners and WPS members, as well as the hard work and incredible support of all of our other partners and the community. My sincere thanks to all of you.”

Authorities had warned that the blockade preventing commercial traffic to the United States would be lifted after an Ontario judge granted an injunction against the protest on Friday.

Windsor Police Sgt.  Steve Betteridge talks about the arrests made on the criminal charge of mischief in the effort to reopen the Ambassador Bridge in Windsor, Ontario.  on Feb. 13, 2022. (Robin Buckson/The Detroit News)

Anyway, the chants of “Freedom!” could be heard as protesters were evacuated on Sunday. Protests had only grown before, with crowds gathering on Huron Church Road and College Avenue near the bridge. For almost a week, the stage had a festival atmosphere, with music, flags and food.

Richard Drouillard, 40, a former Windsor firefighter, supported the truckers. Drouillard said Sunday he lost his job because he didn’t want to get vaccinated.

“We have a lot more trucks coming here right now from Ottawa and Toronto to support us,” Drouillard said before police began pulling back protesters and towing trucks blocking the entrance to the bridge.

Windsor Police Sgt. Steve Betteridge could not confirm if there was any credible information that other trucks were on the way. Conversations with protesters did not produce meaningful results, he said.

“We started with this blockade, putting a lot of effort into communicating with the protesters, positive dialogue to find out what their desires were, and over time it became very fractured, and we had a hard time knowing what protesters wanted because we were getting so many different answers about what upset them,” Betteridge said. “There were no specified real leaders we could communicate with.”

In a statement released Sunday afternoon, White House Homeland Security Advisor Liz Sherwood-Randall said authorities hoped Sunday’s actions would deter future blockades.

“Canadian authorities are taking proactive steps to ensure that no further unlawful disruptions to the movement of people and goods occur,” Sherwood-Randall said in a statement. “Individuals who trespass on property on the bridge road will be cited for trespassing and their vehicles will be towed.”

The United States also has a vaccine requirement for freight truckers delivering goods across the border.

Charlene Renaud, a Windsor resident, lives near the site of the protest and has seen crowds dwindle over the past week.

“I don’t care if you want to take 10 hits, but it should be your choice,” said Renaud, 56. “You shouldn’t lose your job for this. It’s insane because we live in a free country.”

At 9 a.m. Sunday, Windsor Police announced they intended to move in on protesters. At 10:15 a.m., protesters and media were ordered to leave the Windsor Strip Mall on the south side of the Ambassador Bridge or be evicted for trespassing.

Windsor and London police officers are advising people parked in a parking lot on Huron Church Road that they cannot remain parked unless using the shops and being towed away.  It's not far from the Ambassador Bridge in Windsor, Ontario on February 13, 2022.

Business owners were asking people to remove their vehicles from private ownership.

Police blocked all streets in view of the bridge and restricted media to a sidewalk next to a gas station. About 40 protesters remained. Some had wrapped themselves in Canadian flags and held signs reading “No Vax Mandates” and “(explicit) Trudeau.”

Tom Lyons, a retired firefighter from Windsor, was among the supporters on Sunday morning. Lyons said while he supports vaccines, he also supports truckers who are against mandates.

“I believe 90% of truckers are vaccinated, but they don’t like the idea of ​​warrants and digital tracking,” Lyons, 70, said. “The crazy thing is that truckers drive alone all the time. The old one size doesn’t fit all the time.

During the week of protests, US officials redirected commercial traffic to the Blue Water Bridge in Port Huron. The US-Windsor Tunnel was open to passenger traffic.

Protesters gather on the Tecumseh Road sidewalk due to the combined police presence in Windsor, Ont., February 13, 2022. The city bus in the background was used to transport police officers.  (Robin Buckson/The Detroit News)

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