Canada protesters, police deadlocked as tensions simmer at blocked border bridge By Reuters


© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Protesters interact with police officers, who stand guard on a street after Windsor Police said that they are starting to enforce a court order to clear truckers and supporters who have been protesting against coronavirus disease (COVID-19) va

(Fixes garbles or extraneous words in paragraphs 2, 3, 8, 10, 11, 14, 15)

By Kayla Tarnowski

WINDSOR, Ontario (Reuters) – A tense standoff between Canadian police and protesters opposing COVID-19 restrictions was set to continue on Sunday, as a court order and threats of arrest have failed to end a blockade of a key Canada-U.S. border crossing.

President Joe Biden has asked Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to use federal powers to end the blockade of the Ambassador Bridge, North America’s busiest land border crossing. Since Monday, protesters in trucks, cars and vans have blocked traffic in both directions, choking the supply chain for Detroit’s carmakers.

Despite a court order to end the occupation and a state of emergency imposed by the province of Ontario, home to the city of Windsor, police have failed to disperse the crowd and resume cross-border traffic.

Police moved in early on Saturday, pushing protesters back from the foot of the bridge, but more people streamed into the area in the afternoon and the operation appeared to have stalled. Late on Saturday, Windsor Police arrested a 27-year old man for a criminal offence in relation to the demonstration.

“I am very hopeful still that police can … try and get to these folks in a reasonable way and have them understand that it’s time to move on,” Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens told CBC News. “We can no longer afford as a country to keep it closed.”

The bridge carries about $360 million a day in two-way cargoes – 25% of the value of all U.S.-Canada goods trade.

Concrete barricades have been set up in front of the police near the bridge to keep protesters from reclaiming any ground.

The “Freedom Convoy” protests, started in the national capital Ottawa by Canadian truckers opposing a vaccinate-or-quarantine mandate for cross-border drivers, entered its 17th day on Sunday. But it has now morphed into a rallying point against broader COVID-19 curbs, carbon tax and other issues, with people joining in cars, pick-up trucks and farm vehicles.

Protests erupted across several cities in Canada on Saturday, with some 4,000 people in downtown Ottawa. Financial capital Toronto had some 1,000 demonstrators, though the police had shut key access roads to the central business district.

In the west, hundreds of protesters choked intersections along the Pacific Highway with vehicles leading to the Canada-U.S. border crossing in South Surrey, British Columbia. Several, camped out near the border crossing, vowed to stay “as long as is needed” until all COVID-19 restrictions are lifted.

Strangling bilateral trade, protests have spread to three border points, including in Alberta and Manitoba.

Canadian police have said the protests have been partly funded by U.S. supporters, and Ontario froze funds donated via one U.S. platform GiveSendGo on Thursday.

Ford Motor (NYSE:) Co, the second-largest U.S. automaker, General Motors Co (NYSE:) and Toyota Motor (NYSE:) Corp all have announced production cuts. Companies have diverted cargo to stem losses during the cuts.

The estimated loss so far from the blockades to the auto industry alone could be as high as $850 million, based on IHS Markit’s data, which puts the 2021 daily flow in vehicles and parts at $141.1 million a day.

“This is the busiest border crossing, so it’s not just automotive,” Mayor Dilkens said. “We are talking about things that impact the entire nation here. That’s why finding a resolution is so important.”

(This story has been refiled to fix garble or extraneous words in paragraphs 2, 3, 8, 10, 11, 14 and 15)

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