‘Freedom Convoy’ protesters were forced to end their occupation of the busiest bridge from Canada to the United States on Sunday morning after police in Windsor, Ontario, started arresting demonstrators and towing away vehicles.
Police swept through the convoy around 7am, following a standoff that began Friday evening when a Canadian judge issued a 10-day injunction making it unlawful to block Ambassador Bridge – which connects Windsor with Detroit.
Protesters in trucks, cars and vans have blocked traffic in both directions since Monday, choking the supply chain for Detroit’s carmakers.
Despite clearing the key bridge on Sunday morning, however, officials kept Ambassador Bridge closed to traffic.
‘Freedom Convoy’ protesters against Canada Prime Minster Justin Trudeau’s vaccine mandates were forced to clear access to Ambassador Bridge, the busiest bridge from Canada to the U.S., on Sunday morning
Police came in full force arresting protesters, who were charged with mischief, and towing vehicles
After they were forced away from the bridge, protesters lingered around local businesses until police began threatening to arrest people for trespassing. Among the group was Kim Dion (above), 57, a contractor who drove 3 hours to join the protest yesterday and returned today at 5.30am
Demonstrations across Canadian cities have been implemented in response to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s order for the country’s truckers to be vaccinated or quarantine after returning from the US.
‘Today, our national economic crisis at the Ambassador Bridge came to an end. Border crossings will reopen when it is safe to do so and I defer to police and border agencies to make that determination,’ Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens said in a statement on Sunday.
Police forced the demonstrators to clear the bridge by stepping up their presence with more than 50 vehicles, including cruisers, buses and an armored car on Sunday. The number of protesters still at the bridge had dropped to around 45 from Saturday’s roughly 100-person turnout.
‘Enforcement is continuing in the demonstration area and there will be zero tolerance for illegal activity. The public should avoid the area,’ the Windsor Police Service tweeted on Sunday morning.
Protesters lingered in the vicinity of the bridge after their forced removal, however, gathering on sidewalks and in parking lots of local businesses.
One small group convened at a Shell gas station with a couple of men in a pickup truck who were blasting Twisted Sister’s 1984 protest anthem, ‘We’re not going to take it.’
Among the group was Kim Dion, 57, a contractor who drove 3 hours to join the protest yesterday and returned today at 5.30am.
‘I went to the hotel room had a rest, then when I came back, they started to come out in large numbers,’ he told DailyMail.com, referring to the hundreds of police officers that came down on the protest on Sunday morning.
‘They told everybody to move or you’re going to get arrested. So some of us started trekking back. and a few were staying there holding their ground. They pushed us back to here and this is where we’re watching,’ he said.
Dion said he feels good about what the protesters accomplished during their week there, adding that he wasn’t surprised by the crackdown.
‘I think this was a good statement and I think it’s getting more noticed around the world. [The police] had to do this to save some jobs. If Trudeau and Forbes didn’t do this, their necks are on the lines. So they did what they did. And we accomplished what we wanted. And at any moment’s notice, if things don’t change, we could bring thousands of people back here and do this all over again,’ Dion said.
‘The government needs to start listening to the people and stop calling us racists and every other name just because we have a different opinion than they do. We’re here for freedom. I’m here for my grandkids, my kids. And we need this country to get back to normal,’ Dion added, noting that he plans on leaving this afternoon.
Two RCMP tactical unit officers monitored the situation as police remove truckers and supporters after a court injunction gave police the power to enforce the law after protesters blocked the access leading from the Ambassador Bridge
Officers detained a protester on Sunday as police cracked down on the blockade
Most of the protesters began dispersing from the Shell station around 9am, when Ontario Provincial Police officers threatened to cite them for trespassing. ‘Business owners in the area of the demonstration are asking people to remove their vehicles from private property. They are also asking for police assistance to notify demonstrators to leave their property as they are trespassing,’ Windsor police tweeted.
“The business does not want you on this property,” one officer told the demonstrators at the Shell gas station.
“We’re not stopping anyone from getting gas,” one protester shouted backed, but the officer said he was “just a messenger” and would have to arrest anyone who didn’t leave.
Tom Meahan, another protester, was more frustrated that the blockade was forced to end before protesters’ demands were met.
‘We spent the last two years throwing people’s freedom and liberty away for the illusions of these people’s safety, and it’s just not acceptable. And we came here to protest. I guess we’re just not in a democracy anymore because now the government doesn’t let you protest the government,’ he told DailyMail.com.
“Everything was strong last night. They waited until most of the protest had subsided, then came in and did their dirty work. They need to trade their black shirts for brown shirts here. This could have been ended day one. All we had to do is get our premiere and cowardly prime minister to step up and end these mandates. It’s totally unnecessary. It’s time for us to move on,’ he added.
Meahan said it felt like ‘watching the end of our democracy’ to see the blockade come to an end and likened the Canadian police to the “gestapo.”
Mayor Dilkens defended the removal of protesters in a statement on Sunday, saying, ‘Canada is nation that believes in the right to freedom of speech and expression, but we are also bound by the rule of law.’
He also stressed the importance of Ambassador Bridge for the Canadian economy. “This is the busiest border crossing, so it’s not just automotive. We are talking about things that impact the entire nation here. That’s why finding a resolution is so important,’ he said.
Ambassador Bridge carries about $360 million a day in two-way cargoes – 25% of the value of all U.S.-Canada goods trade.
Ford Motor Co, the second-largest U.S. automaker, General Motors Co and Toyota Motor Corp all have announced production cuts as a result of the blockade. 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.
A cop policing the thousands of Canadian flag-waving protestors joining the Freedom Convoy in Ottawa has admitted to DailyMail.com: ‘They are in control – no doubt about that.’
He spoke out as demonstrators continued to drastically outnumber the city’s entire 1,480-strong force on Sunday, with officers now reduced to standing by and watching as around 4,000 people are now part of the occupation.
Ambassador Bridge carries about $360 million a day in two-way cargoes – 25% of the value of all U.S.-Canada goods
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
In fact, there appears to be a growing element of sympathy among some officers for the truckers and others who woke up on Sunday morning after enduring bone-chilling overnight temperatures of negative 24 Fahrenheit with wind chill.
Asked if he believed police would move in to smash the demonstration in Canada’s capital city, he replied: ‘No, I cannot see that happening.
‘It doesn’t matter how many boots we have on the ground, they have more.
‘It’s going to be up to these people, and I guess the politicians, when this ends.’
The officer, who would not be named, continued: ‘We’re doing the best we can, but we are outnumbered, overwhelmed and exhausted – especially on the weekend when lots of people who are not part of the actual trucker convoy have come down here.
‘Our priority is to keep the peace and make sure everyone is safe.
‘It’s less about enforcement. I can’t go around focused on violations for openly carrying alcohol and stuff like that that isn’t hurting anyone. We can’t start taking away fuel and water and the things these people need to survive.’
The cop also emphasized that using all his department’s resources to police the burgeoning demo would leave the rest of the city vulnerable.
‘People don’t realize that this is a city of 1 million people and this is happening in a few blocks of downtown – and only about 6,000 people live in the core,’ he told DailyMail.com.
‘We have to continue responding to calls all over the city so we can’t pull everyone down here.
‘We are stretched. Vacation times have been suspended and everyone is doing overtime. We come here to a hotel and get a few hours of sleep and a shower and then we’re back out on the street.
Police marched through Windsor as authorities struggled to quell a two-week-old protest movement that also paralyzed downtown Ottawa
‘We’re away from our families. I feel like we’re doing what we can with what we have to make this safe for everyone no matter what side you’re on.’
He made his views plain as the truckers’ protest over a Canadian government mandate – forcing them to be fully vaccinated when they return from their regular runs to the United States – continued to spread across the country.
Directly across from the Parliament Buildings, five men and a woman gathered around a makeshift campfire on Sunday morning amid the cacophony of noise from running truck engines and generators on day 16 of Ottawa’s ‘Red Zone’ occupation. More than 400 trucks are clogging the streets.
They all backed up the view that cops are now standing well back – and in some cases actually helping the demonstrators.
Will, 50, who refused to give his last name and is not a trucker, traveled 310 miles from Guelph, Ontario, said: ‘From what I can tell, they want to be here less than we want to be here.
‘They’re walking around, they’re saying “hi” to people, they’re fist-bumping people – not all of them – but I’d say that a good 75 percent of them are just miserable.’
The hardy protestor and his group slept out in the grueling cold with the others – and has been in Ottawa three weeks.
He continued: ‘At the very beginning the police were trying to do things to dissuade everybody. Take gas, take wood. Make up a couple of lies here and there, put it on the news.
‘Now, I haven’t seen anybody get a ticket.
‘There’s too many people. If they kept taking the gas you can’t get no heat. If they take the wood, you can’t heat. And there’s kids here, too. If somebody freakin’ died in their truck…
Police surround pickup trucks as they cleared protestors against Covid-19 vaccine mandates who blocked the entrance to the Ambassador Bridge
‘I don’t think the police could stop it. I don’t think they could do it. But the army could. However, they’re not going to fire on civilians. And I’m in it for the long haul, as long as I can stay.’
His fellow group member John, 57, who hitchhiked 225 miles from North Bay, Ontario, weighed in: ‘Even if they took every person off the grounds they still have all those trucks.
‘It’s not a win. How do you win it? It would take months to make it a win because you still have vehicles that you have to move.’
John said he lost a glove and a cop came to the rescue. ‘He saw me sleeping me on the steps and he brought me gloves with heating pads in them, said the demonstrator.
‘I can’t even publicly thank him for it because he would lose his job or have some sort of blowback. It’s a shame.’
He added: ‘Look, if Canadians who are known the world over for being polite can get this well organized and riled up, then I’m certain folk in the US would take it to a different level.’
A joint command center has now been set up between The Ottawa Police Service, Ontario Provincial Police and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
A statement from the Ontario force on Saturday said this was to beef up enforcement that had been limited by ‘safety concerns – arising from aggressive, illegal behavior by many demonstrators’ and ‘limited police enforcement capabilities’.
It added: ‘We have a plan to end this unlawful occupation and await necessary reinforcements to do so.’
Ottawa City councillor Diane Deans, chair of the police services board, has admitted: ‘They (police officers) have been working very hard under very stressful circumstances.
‘Everyone in OPS is extremely tired. This has gone on for 16 days with right now no end in sight, and they need help and resources.’
Ottawa mayor Jim Watson declared a state of emergency in the city last week. His spokesman Patrick Champagne called the protest an ‘unprecedented insurrection, which is now national and international in scope’.
Saturday saw many of the thousands of demonstrators and their supporters partying to loud music right outside the office window of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
Street vendors had set up stalls selling Canada flags and were doing a brisk trade with people who draped them over their shoulders to continue the almost carnival-like atmosphere.
Firework displays on a nearby street went on past midnight. As demonstrators woke up on Sunday morning, music continued to blare from various locations around the static trucks.
But amid the revelry, truckers whose livelihoods depend on crossing the border to the US, the atmosphere over the weekend was more sombre.
Drivers who parked their rigs in Ottawa’s historic Confederation Square continued to denounce Trudeau and remained defiant despite the lack of facilities and temperatures.
Christian Muntean, 45, of Windsor, vowed: ‘We will win. There is no way back. I won’t give up.’
Sitting in the cab of his immaculate yellow Peterbilt truck, the single dad added: ‘I’ve been here for the last three weeks. And I will stay until the end.
‘The end will be when the government, Trudeau, let’s us chose what we want. To let us chose what we want to put in our bodies.
‘I’m not vaccinated. That’s my choice. But I’m losing my livelihood because of it.’
Muntean said he will have lost 20,000 Canadian dollars if the stand-off lasts another week.
‘This my truck and I usually travel to the US, back and forth, back and forth. Now I can’t do it because I’m not vaccinated,’ he said.
‘I normally use the Ambassador Bridge twice a week. I’m losing a lot man, $20,000 a month.
‘I am angry and disillusioned. But people are kind. They give us food, water and occasionally some money to help out.’
A Ukrainian trucker who has been driving in Canada for 10 years was equally defiant.
He refused to be named, but insisted: ‘I’ve been here for two weeks and I’m not going anywhere.
‘I haven’t been vaccinated but that’s up to me, my personal choice.
‘It’s going to be extremely cold tonight but I’m not bothered by that. This is more important than surviving freezing temperatures- this is about our freedom of choice and our livelihoods.
‘I am losing at least $1,000 a day being here but I’m staying.’
Canadian police resumed operations Sunday to clear a key US border bridge occupied by trucker-led demonstrators angry over Covid-19 restrictions
Following Sunday’s events, Mayor Dilkens called for unity as the coronavirus pandemic reaches its two-year anniversary.
‘I strongly urge all Provincial and Federal leaders to refrain from any divisive political rhetoric and redouble efforts to help all Canadians heal, as we emerge from almost two years of pandemic lockdowns and restrictions,’ he said.
Windsor police also attempted to bridge the divide following the protests. ‘Throughout this demonstration, Police have respected the protesters’ freedom of expression and their right to a peaceful assembly,’ the Windsor Police Service said in a statement on Sunday morning.
‘The Windsor Police Service along with policing partners used a progressive approach by ensuring open lines of communication and continuous negotiations with protestors. During these negotiations, demonstrators were made aware that their actions were illegal and subject to arrest,’ the statement continued, noting that several protesters were charged with mischief and multiple vehicles were towed.
‘We also recognize the rights of the general public, local residents and businesses to a safe environment. Police used discretion during the course of the demonstration to avoid creating an unstable situation and potentially putting the public at risk. This exercising of police discretion should not be confused with lack of enforcement,’ Windsor police added.
‘You will see a continued police presence in the area in order to maintain an environment that is safe. In an effort to work towards resuming traffic flow, a continuous assessment of the situation is vital to ensure a sustainable solution,’ the statement concluded.