Police are working to reopen traffic across a key border crossing with the United States after officers ended what the local mayor described as a “national economic crisis.”
Mayor Drew Dilkens of Windsor, Ont. said police will decide when cross-border traffic can resume. He also said that illegal acts, blockades and hate speech must not be tolerated and should be denounced.
Canada is a country that believes in freedom of speech and expression, Dilkens said in a statement, adding “we are also bound by the rule of law.”
Windsor Police resumed efforts on Sunday morning to clear out remaining protesters at the foot of the busy Ambassador Bridge connecting Windsor and Detroit, by towing vehicles at the protest site and barring anyone else from arriving on scene.
Enforcement efforts got underway on Saturday morning, but appeared to reach an impasse in the afternoon as hundreds of protesters ignored requests to clear the area.
The police in a statement said officers negotiated with protesters opposed to COVID-19 public health restrictions, and warned of arrests if they kept traffic at a standstill.
Sgt. Steve Betteridge with the Windsor Police Service said roughly a dozen people were arrested, mostly charged with mischief, and a few vehicles were towed, all with no violence involved from protesters or police having to use force.
“That’s been one of our goals from the onset of this entire operation is to be able to have a peaceful solution,” Betteridge told reporters at an outdoor briefing.
The demonstration in Windsor, as well as cities and border crossings across Canada, are being held in solidarity with protesters who have jammed downtown Ottawa streets for more than two weeks.
The protesters are demanding an end to all public health measures imposed to combat COVID-19, while critics and public officials have described their actions as illegal and called for an end to the demonstrations.
Downtown Ottawa was largely quiet early Sunday morning, though trucks and vehicles encamped by Parliament Hill idled amid frigid temperatures.
Residents who have become frustrated with a lack of movement on the situation appeared to lose some of their patience on Sunday and blocked a convoy on its way to join up with demonstrators downtown.
Resident Sean Burgess said the spontaneous counter-protest, organized late Saturday evening, should be a clear signal to federal, provincial and local leaders about ending what Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson has described as an illegal occupation of the capital’s core.
“Ottawa is not the dull city all of Canada thinks, but it’s certainly not a city of people who get out in the street and become activists, particularly spontaneously,” Burgess said by the line of counter-protesters.
“So when you see people in a neighborhood like Old Ottawa South, who would rather complain, and litigate, so to speak, rather than take direct action on the streets, standing in front of trucks saying to the cops, ‘fine, arrest me,’ then you know that something has gone really too far.”
Noushin Ziafati and Jordan Press, The Canadian Press