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Police arrest US-Canada bridge protesters

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Police have moved in to clear and arrest the remaining protesters near the busiest US-Canadian border crossing, ending a demonstration against COVID-19 restrictions that has hurt the economy of both nations.

But the crackdown on the border came even as police held back from action on a larger protest in the capital, Ottawa.

The protest in Ottawa has paralysed the city centre, infuriated residents who are fed up with police inaction and turned up pressure on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

The demonstrations have reverberated across Canada and beyond, with similar convoys in Australia, France, New Zealand and the Netherlands. The US Department of Homeland Security has also warned that truck convoys may be being planned in the United States.

Windsor police said more than two dozen people were peacefully arrested, seven vehicles were towed and five were seized near the Ambassador Bridge that links their city – and numerous Canadian automotive plants – with Detroit.

“Today, our national economic crisis at the Ambassador Bridge came to an end,” said Windsor’s Mayor Drew Dilkens, who expressed hope the bridge would reopen on Sunday (local time).

“Border crossings will reopen when it is safe to do so and I defer to police and border agencies to make that determination.

But the bridge remained closed as a snowstorm hit the area, and Windsor Police Chief Pamela Mizuno didn’t offer a timetable for its reopening.

“There are steps we need to take in order to reopen the roadways so that we don’t encounter the same issue,” she said.

“We need to ensure we are able to maintain the traffic flow.”

Only a few protesters had remained after police on Saturday persuaded demonstrators to move trucks and cars they had used to block a crossing that carries 25 per cent of all trade between the two countries.

US President Joe Biden’s administration on Sunday acknowledged the seemingly peaceful resolution to the demonstration, which it said had “widespread damaging impacts” on the “lives and livelihoods of people” on both sides of the border.

“We stand ready to support our Canadian partners wherever useful in order to ensure the restoration of the normal free flow of commerce can resume,” Homeland Security Adviser Dr Liz Sherwood-Randall said.

In Ottawa, Mayor Jim Watson said on Sunday the city struck a deal with protesters who have jammed downtown streets for more than two weeks that would mean they moved out of residential areas in the next 24 hours.

Mr Watson said he agreed to meet demonstrators if they confined their protest to an area around Parliament Hill and moved their trucks and other vehicles out of residential neighbourhoods by noon on Monday. A response from protest organisers suggested they would comply.

Mr Watson added in his letter to protesters that residents were exhausted and on edge due to the demonstrations and warned that some businesses were teetering on the brink of permanent closure because of the disruptions.

The ranks of protesters had swelled to what police said were 4000 demonstrators by Saturday, while a counter-protest of frustrated Ottawa residents attempting to block the convoy of trucks from entering the downtown emerged on Sunday.

Pandemic restrictions have been far stricter in Canada than in the US, but Canadians have largely supported them. The vast majority of Canadians are vaccinated, and the COVID-19 death rate is one-third that of the US.

-AAP

We’ve Already Come Too Far To End This Now.

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