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Key US-Canada border bridge remains closed as Canadian police clear protesters

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Police officers hold a line, on the road leading to the Ambassador Bridge, which connects Detroit and Windsor, after clearing demonstrators, during a protest against coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine mandates, in Windsor, Ontario, Canada, on February 13, 2022. (Photo by Reuters)

Canadian police have cleared protesters and vehicles that had blocked a key border crossing with the United States in protest against the government's COVID-19 restrictions and vaccine mandates.

Police made several arrests and towed vehicles near the Ambassador Bridge linking Detroit and the city of Windsor, Ontario, on Sunday, after protesters defied an injunction order to end the blockade that had disrupted North America’s busiest land border crossing for the sixth consecutive day.

However, the vital trade route has not been open to traffic yet.   

In a post on its Twitter account, Windsor Police said "Enforcement actions continue at the demonstration area with arrests being made. Vehicles being towed. Please continue avoiding the area," without mentioning how many people have been arrested.

"There will be zero tolerance for illegal activity," it added.

Police stepped up their presence with more than 50 vehicles, including cruisers, buses and an armored car on Sunday, as the number of protesters dropped to around 45 from roughly 100 a day earlier.

Protesters in trucks, cars and vans started blocking traffic at the Ambassador Bridge late on Monday. The bridge carries about $360 million a day in two-way cargoes - 25% of the value of all US-Canada goods trade.

On Saturday, Superior Court Justice Geoffrey Morawetz issued an injunction following a request by Ontario’s auto industry associations and Windsor city authorities who said the blockade was hurting their business.

The disruption also forced Ontario’s Premier Doug Ford to declare a state of emergency, threatening the protesters with legal measures, including fines and potential jail time for rejecting the government’s rules.

Police also 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.

The "Freedom Convoy" protest movement began in the capital, Ottawa, last month against the recent vaccine mandate requiring truckers entering Canada to either be fully vaccinated or face testing and quarantine requirements.

Other protesters have joined to rail against mask mandates, lockdowns, restrictions on gatherings and other COVID-19 preventative efforts.

The protest movement has spread across the country ever since, with drivers occupying areas outside government buildings in the capital city as well as three border crossings with the United States.

Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau has promised US President Joe Biden "quick action" to enforce the law against the protesters blocking the US-Canada bridge.

Trudeau said on Friday that all options are on the table to end protests across the country by truckers, adding that Canadian banks were monitoring financial activity related to the funding of the protests and taking necessary action.

The protests against COVID-19 restrictions have spread to other cities across the North American country, including Toronto, Edmonton, Halifax, and Vancouver as well. 

Protesters have said they will not leave until all mandates and COVID-19 restrictions are dispensed with.

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