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Bridge linking U.S. and Canada reopens after police remove last protesters

Police from London, Ontario, block protesters from the Ambassador Bridge on Saturday.
Jeff Kowalsky
/
AFP via Getty Images
Police from London, Ontario, block protesters from the Ambassador Bridge on Saturday.

Updated February 14, 2022 at 12:58 AM ET

The Ambassador Bridge, the busiest land border crossing between the U.S. and Canada, reopened late Sunday after police cleared and arrested a lingering group of protesters demonstrating against COVID-19 vaccine mandates.

The Canada Border Service Agency confirmed the opening of the bridge early Monday morning, but it advised against any nonessential travel. Live streams of the bridge showed no vehicles entering either the United States or Canada.

"Today, our national economic crisis at the Ambassador Bridge came to an end," Windsor, Ontario, Mayor Drew Dilkens tweeted before the resumption of commerce and travel.

Windsor Police Chief Pamela Mizuno said more than two dozen people were arrested Sunday and that police seized several vehicles. She called Sunday's action a "peaceful outcome."

The bridge, which carries about a quarter of all trade between the U.S. and Canada, was blocked for a week by protesters, some driving semi-trucks, others in private vehicles and many on foot. The protest disrupted economic activity and closed car factories on both sides of the border.

A court ordered protesters to end their blockade by 7 p.m. Friday, but not all left. Authorities warned that remaining protesters would be subject to arrest.

On Saturday, police ticketed and towed vehicles and arrested at least one person, a 27-year-old man. By early Sunday, the protest had shrunk to just about a dozen protesters.

The bridge is a major gateway for trade

The Ambassador Bridge, four lanes across and more than a mile long, is a major economic route. About 8,000 trucks cross the bridge each day, collectively carrying hundreds of millions of dollars worth of goods.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce had warned that the blockade was adding to "significant supply chain strains."

That included the auto industry, with dozens of manufacturing plants across Michigan, Ohio and Canada that rely on car parts ferried across the bridge. Shifts at at least six factories were canceled this past week, including Ford, Toyota, General Motors and Stellantis.

Protesters have also blocked border crossings in the provinces of Manitoba and Albert, along with another bridge in Ontario about 60 miles north of the Ambassador Bridge.

Streets remain clogged in Ottawa

In Ottawa, the epicenter of the protests, thousands of truckers and drivers have clogged downtown streets in a demonstration that has now lasted weeks.

On Friday, Ontario Premier Doug Ford declared a state of emergency and threatened fines of 100,000 Canadian dollars and up to a year in jail for anyone illegally blocking roads or other critical infrastructure.

Ford said that Ottawa was "on track to remove almost all restrictions for businesses very soon," including the vaccine passport system that requires people to show proof of vaccination when entering certain businesses.

"This is great news and a sign of just how far we've come together in this fight," he said, saying that the announcement was unrelated to the trucker convoy protest.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Becky Sullivan has reported and produced for NPR since 2011 with a focus on hard news and breaking stories. She has been on the ground to cover natural disasters, disease outbreaks, elections and protests, delivering stories to both broadcast and digital platforms.