WINDZAR, Ontario (AP) – The busiest border crossing between the United States and Canada opened on Monday after protesters protesting against COVID-19 blocked it for nearly a week, but a larger protest in the Ottawa capital continued when the townspeople boiled over the authorities. inability to rebuild streets.
Demonstrations against COVID-19 restrictions and other issues blocked several crossings along the U.S.-Canada border and damaged the economies of both countries. They also inspired similar convoys in France, New Zealand and the Netherlands. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has warned that convoys of trucks may be operating in the United States.
Police in Windsor, Ontario, arrested 25 to 30 protesters and towed several cars Sunday near the Ambassador Bridge, which connects Windsor – and many Canadian car plants – to Detroit. The bridge reopened to traffic late Sunday night, a spokeswoman for the Detroit International Bridge Co. owner confirmed. The Canadian Border Service has also confirmed that the bridge is open.
After protesters began blocking access to the bridge on Feb. 7, automakers began shutting down or cutting production – at a time when the industry is already battling computer chip shortages and other supply chain disruptions caused by the pandemic. The crossing accounts for 25% of the total trade turnover between the two countries.
“Today, our national economic crisis on the Ambassador Bridge is over,” said Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens. “Border crossings will open if it is safe, and I instruct the police and border authorities to make that decision.”
About 470 miles (750 kilometers) northeast of Windsor, protests in Ottawa paralyzed downtown, infuriated residents who were fed up with police inaction, and put pressure on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
A senior government official said that on Monday morning Trudeau will meet virtually with the heads of Canadian provinces. The official spoke on condition of anonymity, as he had no right to speak in public.
The city seemed to have reached an agreement under which protesters who had clogged downtown streets for more than two weeks would leave residential areas, but those prospects soon faded.
Mayor Jim Watson said Sunday that he has agreed to meet with protesters if they limit their protest to the area around Parliament Hill and withdraw their trucks and other vehicles from residential neighborhoods by noon Monday. He shared a letter from one of the organizers of the protest, Tamara Leach, in which she said that the demonstrators “agree with your request” to focus on Parliament Hill.
But Leach later denied the deal, saying on Twitter: “No deal has been made. Finish mandates, finish passports. That’s why we’re here. “
In a letter Watson wrote to the protesters, he said residents were “exhausted” and “on the edge” because of the demonstrations, and warned that some businesses were teetering on the brink of final closure due to disruptions.
In Surrey, British Columbia, police arrested four protesters on Sunday, and officers in Alberta said they intercepted and disabled three excavators being delivered to the border blockade in the city of Coote.
While protesters condemn the use of vaccines for truckers and other restrictions against COVID-19, many Canadian public health measures, such as mask rules and vaccine passports for entry to restaurants and theaters, are already receding as the Omicron surge decreases.
Pandemic restrictions were much tougher in Canada than in the U.S., but Canadians largely supported them. The vast majority of Canadians are vaccinated, and the death rate from COVID-19 is one-third higher than in the United States.
On Friday, a judge ruled to end the blockade on the Ambassador Bridge, and Ontario Prime Minister Doug Ford declared a state of emergency, punishable by fines of $ 100,000 and imprisonment for up to one year for those who illegally block roads, bridges and other critical infrastructure. .
The administration of US President Joe Biden on Sunday recognized a resolution to demonstrate the bridge, which she said had a “broadly devastating impact” on “people’s lives and livelihoods” on both sides of the border.
Protests in Windsor began to subside on Saturday after police persuaded many protesters to remove vehicles blocking the road to the bridge. But in Ottawa on Saturday, the crowd grew to, according to police, 4,000 protesters, and on Sunday there was a counter-protest by frustrated Ottawa residents trying to block a convoy of trucks downtown.
Clayton Goodwin, a 45-year-old military veteran who was among the protesters, said it was time for residents to rebel against the protesters.
“I’m horrified that other veterans will be down there, co-opting my flag, co-opting my service,” said Goodwin, who is the director general of the Veterans Liability Commission, a nonprofit advocacy group. “It’s a theft. The city was free. We are 92% vaccinated. We are ready to support our business. “
Colin Sinclair, another counter-protester, said the protesters had spoken out and should move on – with police help if necessary.
“They are occupiers,” she said. “This is domestic terrorism and we want you out of our city. Go home. “
Trudeau has so far rejected calls to use military force, but said “all options are on the table” to end the protests. Trudeau called the protesters a “country” of Canadian society. Both federal and provincial politicians have said they cannot order the police what to do.
Major General Steve Boywin, commander of the Canadian Special Operations Forces Command, said Sunday that two members of his special forces support the protests in Ottawa and are in the “process of liberation” from service. Boyvin said the activity was contrary to the values and ethics of the military.
Gillis reported from Toronto. Associated Press authors Ted Shafri of Ottawa, Ontario, and Gene Johnson of Seattle contributed to this report.