Ambassador Bridge reopens after police clear protesters

The Canada Border Services Agency says the Ambassador Bridge border crossing between Windsor, Ont., and Detroit reopened late Sunday — after protests against COVID-19 restrictions closed it for almost a week.

The crossing had been closed for nearly a week by a blockade protesting COVID-19 measures

Police walk the line to remove protesters on Sunday morning near the Ambassador Bridge in Windsor, Ont. Officers from multiple police forces advanced to clear out the remaining protesters and break up a days-long blockade of truckers and others opposed to COVID-19 health measures, including vaccine mandates. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press)

The Canada Border Services Agency says the Ambassador Bridge border crossing between Windsor, Ont., and Detroit reopened late Sunday.

The crossing — one of the busiest in the country — had been closed for nearly a week by a blockade protesting COVID-19 measures.

The bridge sees hundreds of millions of dollars in imports and exports cross it each day, and politicians on both sides of the border decried the economic impact of the protest.

Earlier Sunday, police moved in on protesters, arresting at least 25 people to break up a days-long occupation near the bridge, which normally carries 25 per cent of all trade between Canada and the U.S.

Police, including officers from Windsor, London, the OPP and RCMP,  have continued to maintain a strong presence in the area, blocking off intersections close to the bridge. Throughout Sunday, police conducted sweeps of the area of remaining protesters, telling them to go home or they would be arrested.

They moved in after the Ontario Superior Court granted an injunction Friday barring protesters from blocking the bridge.

WATCH | Police clear Ambassador Bridge blockade in Windsor, Ont.:

Police clear blockade at Ambassador Bridge border crossing

1 year ago
Duration 3:14
Officials in Windsor, Ont., are hoping to reopen the Ambassador Bridge border crossing after police arrested 25-30 people on Sunday and cleared the week-long blockade at one of the country’s most important trade routes.

Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens characterized the protest as an "illegal occupation" of the bridge.

About 12 people were arrested during the first morning clearing of protesters. Sgt. Steve Betteridge said those arrests were without incident and that police did not have to use force to detain the protesters.

But later in the afternoon, as a handful protesters remained on the sidewalks, police formed a line to disperse the demonstrators. As the line moved forward, a few demonstrators were tackled to the ground and arrested.

Windsor Police Chief Pam Mizuno said 25 to 30 people were arrested and charged with mischief altogether on Sunday.

Police outnumber remaining protesters

A group of protesters opposing COVID-19 public health measures, including vaccine mandates, has been at the bridge since Monday, blocking what is typically Canada's busiest border crossing. 

Fewer than 30 protesters were there Sunday morning. Police far outnumbered the remaining protesters, and most cleared the area after being warned of arrests.

"Time to leave," police said, as they formed a line and prepared to march forward along Huron Church Road, which leads to the international border crossing connecting Windsor with Detroit.

"If you don't leave, you will be arrested."

However some arrests were made, including drivers of a few pickup trucks that had remained parked up the street. 

"It is what it is," one man told reporters as he was arrested Sunday morning. "We're here for our freedom, and this is what we get."

The man put up no resistance as he was led out of his truck and put in restraints.

"Trust me, I'm not going to fight you," he told police.

At about 7:45 a.m., dozens of officers began forming a line across Huron Church Road, and minutes later they started their slow advance, telling everyone — both protesters and the media — to move back or face arrest.

Some trucks had also been encamped at the intersection of Tecumseh Road and Huron Church Road. Two officers came by to warn those parked on the street that if they didn't  leave, they would be arrested.

Police arrest a person as they walk the line to remove all truckers and supporters near the Ambassador Bridge on Sunday. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press)

Shortly after, those trucks departed, blaring their horns as they left.

"It's sad. It's sad," said Raymond Miller. "We don't want to go to  jail."

He added: "It's not what we expected. It's totally mind-blowing. Our charter rights were taken from us."

On Saturday night, a crowd of defiant anti-mandate demonstrators remained on the street hours after police had moved in to break up the days-long protest and clear some of the blockade.

By evening, protesters had gathered just behind the concrete barricades police stretched along Huron Church Road.

The crowd had grown throughout the day, and while more people arrived during the evening, the numbers began to decline. Still, many braved the bitter cold to show continued support for the protest — one of several taking place across Canada against COVID-19 measures.

Windsor police arrested one person on Saturday night — a 27-year-old man charged with "a criminal offence in relation to the demonstration."

This comes on a weekend of demonstrations, including one near Fort Erie, Ont., near the Peace Bridge, where people blocked lanes on the Queen Elizabeth Way. In Ottawa, protesters have occupied an area of downtown for 16 days.

Dilkens, the mayor of Windsor, told CBC's Rosemary Barton Live that the fact that protesters could come back to form another blockade has been a concern since Day One.

"What is the plan if you flush 200 people out that you don't get 400 people showing up tomorrow?" he said. 

He said there has to be  some hardening of the roadway leading to the bridge, "to make sure police maintain control, truckers can get through and get to and from the bridge while we maintain order on the ground to make sure that this doesn't happen again.

With files from Jacob Barker and The Canadian Press