'Zero tolerance': Police towing trucks away, arresting protesters from US-Canadian bridge – USA TODAY

WINDSOR, Ontario – Police on Sunday swept through the lingering protest that has brought a week of chaos to the massive Ambassador Bridge linking Detroit to Canada, arresting a few truckers and other protesters still attempting to block the nation’s largest border crossing.
“Enforcement will continue in the demonstration area and there will be zero tolerance for illegal activity,” Windsor police tweeted Sunday. “The public should avoid the area.”
Police said about a dozen arrests were made and several vehicles were seized and towed away.The bridge, a heavily-used U.S.-Canadian border crossing between Detroit and Windsor, Ontario, has been shut down by the protests for a week. 
Windsor Police Sgt. Steve Betteridge said authorities aimed to reopen the bridge for traffic sometime Sunday, but he could not commit to it. 
“We’re hoping today,” Betteridge said. “It takes a little bit of time … we have to be able to do that safely, we have to be able to make sure that we’re ready to do that. … There’s several agencies involved.”
Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens said law enforcement and border agencies would open the bridge sometime Sunday when it was “safe.”
Dilkens also thanked authorities “for their determined, yet compassionate” efforts to end the standoff. The bridge closure has fueled angry social media commentary, mostly aimed at authorities; severely hampered U.S.-Canada trade; and prompted the auto industry to scale back production in both countries.
About a mile from the bridge, a few dozen protesters did not retreat, instead drinking coffee and hollering freedom slogans. Other protesters were leaving the scene, including Kim Deon, who said he had had expected police “to do the push.”
“It’s not the end,” Deon said. “What happened here in the last week is showing the world and showing the rest of the country that, you know what, this needs to be done to stop what’s going on in our country.”
HOW PROTESTS SPREAD RAPIDLY:Truckers at the Ambassador Bridge hurt businesses, sparked protests around the world
The vast majority of Canadians are vaccinated, and the coronavirus death rate is one-third that of the U.S. Police issued a statement defending their limited actions during the weeklong protest, saying authorities used a “progressive approach by ensuring open lines of communication and continuous negotiations” with the demonstrators.
The White House issued a statement Sunday applauding the efforts of Canadian authorities to reopen the bridge and pledging to support them “wherever useful” in order to ensure restoration of commerce.
On Saturday, officers wearing neon yellow vests over their uniforms had warned demonstrators over a public address system that they would be arrested if they didn’t leave. Many protesters in pickups left voluntarily, honking their horns as they drove away. The larger trucks pulled away a short time later, blasting their air horns as they went.
Police warned in a statement that vehicles could be seized – possibly forfeited.
Protesters, who have created havoc at the capital in Ottawa for three weeks, say they object to Canada’s COVID-19 rules. Truckers calling themselves the Freedom Convoy are opposing a mandate requiring drivers entering Canada to be fully vaccinated or face testing and quarantine requirements.
Trucker Mat Mackenzie, 36, said government officials should not be in charge of making decisions around masks, vaccines and other COVID-19 mitigation efforts.
“I can tell you 90% of truckers here are likely vaccinated. We’re here for freedom of choice,” the Ontario resident said. “That’s what we’re here to fight for.”
The protest has shut down the busiest trade crossing between the U.S. and Canada and prompted calls for action from both the White House and embattled Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
“We’ll continue to make sure municipal, provincial, and federal authorities have what they need to end the blockades and protect public safety,” Trudeau tweeted Saturday night.
TRUCKS LEAVE BORDER BLOCKADE: Vaccine mandate protesters arrive on foot. Latest COVID updates
Former President Donald Trump, along with several other U.S. Republican leaders, have been vocal in their support of the Canadian protesters – to the chagrin of Trudeau and others attempting to restore order in Canada. Trump, speaking Saturday on “Fox & Friends,” said he was proud to see many of the protesters waving Trump banners and suggested that many of the protesters were Americans.
“You can push people so far,” Trump said. “When you look at what’s happening in Canada, our country, I think, is far more of a tinderbox than Canada.”
Protests at the bridge as well as those 500 miles to the east in Ottawa and elsewhere in Canada have triggered similar protests around the world. Convoys have locked up traffic in France and the Netherlands. In New Zealand, authorities blared Barry Manilow music through loudspeakers in an effort to drive off protesters.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security warned that truck convoys may become an issue in the U.S., possibly as soon as Sunday linked to the Super Bowl being played in Los Angeles.
In Windsor, Bob Rae, Canada’s ambassador to the United Nations, tweeted a video of pickups rolling away from the bridge.
“Rule of law can prevail over the swagger of intimidation,” Rae wrote.
SOME CAR BUYERS OK WITH A DELAY:Ambassador Bridge protest to pinch car buyers’ pocketbooks for some time
An ex-Cabinet minister in Trudeau’s government challenged her former federal colleagues as well as the province and city for not putting an end to the protests.
“This isn’t just Ottawa. It’s the nation’s capital,” Catherine McKenna tweeted. “But no one – not the city, the province or the federal government can seem to get their act together to end this illegal occupation. It’s appalling. … Just get your act together. Now.”
The results of a national survey released by Maru Public Opinion finds little support in Canada for the protest or Trudeau’s handling of the crisis. Almost two-thirds of Canadians polled believe Canada’s democracy is being threatened by the protesters and must be stopped immediately. Only 20% fully support the truckers’ methods and concerns.
But only 17% think Trudeau has looked strong and 53% say he has looked weak.
The Ambassador Bridge is the busiest U.S.-Canadian border crossing, carrying 25% of all trade between the two countries. On Friday, a Canadian judge ordered the protesters to clear out or face arrest.
Canada’s Innovation Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne said the blockades are hurting Canadian families, workers and businesses.
HOW AUTOMAKERS ARE RESPONDING:Automakers work to bypass trucker protest at Ambassador Bridge as plants cancel shifts
“Glad to see the Windsor Police & its policing partners commenced enforcement at and near the Ambassador Bridge,” he tweeted. “These blockades must stop.”
Bacon reported from McLean, Virginia. Contributing: Elisha Anderson, John Wisely, Lily Altavena, and Christine MacDonald, Detroit Free Press; The Associated Press


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