Police in Windsor, Ontario, began to clear protesters who continue to occupy a vital Canada-U.S. trade corridor on Saturday, less than a day after a judge granted an injunction to end the blockade that has crippled North America’s well-knitted auto industry.
Tractor-trailer traffic has been blocked since late Monday from crossing the Ambassador Bridge from Windsor to Detroit. All Canada-bound bridge traffic from the U.S. has also been blocked since late Monday.
About 15 trucks, cars and vans blocked traffic in both directions Saturday afternoon, choking a key supply route for automakers.
“We urge all demonstrators to act lawfully & peacefully,” Windsor Police said in a Twitter post, asking commuters to avoid the areas affected by the demonstrations. The police action came more than 12 hours after a court order to ended the blockade came into effect.
Police in black uniforms with yellow vests moved behind the protesters’ vehicles and, accompanied by police cruisers, slowly advanced on protesters, pushing them back from the bridge entrance. The number of demonstrators had thinned to roughly two dozen early on Saturday from about 200 on Friday night. Tow trucks are on site to move vehicles.
“We are opening up this intersection to traffic. If you fail to comply with our instructions you will be arrested,” police told the crowd via a loudspeaker.
Protesters were seen moving back in a noisy but peaceful retreat, dismantling tents and barbecues.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has promised President Joe Biden quick action to end the crisis, and on Friday a Canadian judge ordered an end to the blockade of the bridge, North America’s busiest land border crossing.
“The Windsor Police & its policing partners have commenced enforcement at and near the Ambassador Bridge. We urge all demonstrators to act lawfully & peacefully,” the police said in a tweet at 8:18 a.m. EST Saturday. “Commuters are still being asked to avoid the areas affected by the demonstrations at this time.”
At least four buses are on site as the protests continued for a sixth day on Saturday. Video posted by local media outlets show some protestors leaving the scene.
The situation appeared peaceful, according to several social media posts and a live Youtube feed. Photos show strategically placed uniformed police officers at the entrance to the bridge, staring down the few protestors who remained.
The order went into effect at 7 p.m. EST on Friday, but five hours after the deadline, some 100 protesters were milling around the entrance to the bridge, waving Canadian flags.
While the number of protesters and police dropped as the night progressed, demonstrators continued to block the bridge with trucks and pickup vans, preventing any flow of traffic in either direction.
Protesters sang the Canadian national anthem and midnight, and some shouted “Freedom!”