The blockades on the Canadian-US border continue as protests escalate

WINDZAR, Ontario (AP) – A few hours after they removed their cars that blocked a key bridge on the U.S.-Canada border, protesters opposed the COVID-19 vaccine …

WINDZAR, ONTARIO (AP) – Hours after they removed their cars that blocked a key U.S.-Canada border bridge, protesters against the COVID-19 vaccine mandate continued to block traffic on the streets in the bitter cold Sunday, while the capital, Ottawa, formed a new police command center with provincial and national authorities, which they said would help them respond better to a large demonstration that paralyzed the city center.

The tense confrontation on the Ambassador Bridge, which connects Detroit and Windsor, Ontario, eased slightly on Saturday when Canadian police persuaded protesters to move trucks they used to barricade entry to a busy international crossing. Early Saturday evening, crews set up concrete barricades along the highway.

But protesters again gathered nearby – with reinforcements – and still blocked access from the Canadian side, roaring traffic and trade. About 180 were left late Saturday in the cold.

In Ottawa, the number of demonstrators increased to, according to police, 4,000 demonstrators. Last weekend, the city saw this, and loud music was played as people crowded downtown, where anti-vaccine protesters have been stationed since late January.

Protests on the bridge, in Ottawa and elsewhere took place outside the country, with the same inspiration convoys in France, New Zealand and the Netherlands, and the US Department of Homeland Security warned that truck convoys could operate in the United States.

Former Cabinet Minister in the Government of the Prime Minister of Canada Justin Trudeau has taken an unusual step, urging his former federal counterparts as well as the province and the city for not stopping the protests.

“Surprisingly, it’s not just Ottawa. It is the capital of the country, ”Catherine McKenna wrote on Twitter. “But no one – neither the city, nor the province, nor the federal government – seems to be able to unite to end this illegal occupation. It’s awful. … Just get together. Now.

Trudeau is still rejecting calls to use military force.

“The prime minister stressed that border crossings cannot and will not remain closed, and that all options are available,” the Trudeau office said in a statement late Saturday after meeting with senior officials. Trudeau called the protesters a “country” of Canadian society.

Ottawa police said in a statement Saturday that a joint command center had been set up along with Ontario provincial police and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. They said it would empower law enforcement, which was limited by “security concerns – arising from the aggressive, illegal behavior of many demonstrators – limited police capabilities.”

Earlier, police made a statement in which he called protests illegal occupation and said to reinforcement before implement plan to stop demonstrations.

Last week, Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson declared a state of emergency in the capital, where hundreds of trucks remained in front of the parliament building, and protesters set up portable toilets near the prime minister’s office, where Trudeau’s motorcade is usually parked.

Surrounded by dozens of officers in Windsor, a man with spray paint “Freedom of Mandate” and “Trump 2024” in his car left the entrance to the bridge early in the afternoon, when others began to dismantle a small, covered with tarpaulin camp. The trucker horned when he also drove, to applause and chanting “Freedom!”

But hundreds of others arrived to support the crowd, and clashed with police about two blocks away, waving flags and shouting. Although there were no visible physical clashes, the crowd still controlled the road to the bridge, and as of Sunday morning, traffic had not resumed.

On Friday, a judge ruled to end the blockade of mostly pickups and cars, and Ontario Prime Minister Doug Ford declared a state of emergency, punishable by fines of $ 100,000 and up to one year in prison for illegally blocking roads. bridges, paths and other important infrastructure.

“Illegal blockades affect trade, supply chains and production. They harm Canadian families, workers and businesses. We are pleased to see that Windsor Police and its police partners have begun guarding the Ambassador Bridge and near it, ”Federal Innovation Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne wrote on Saturday. “These blockades must stop.”

The Ambassador Bridge is the busiest border crossing between the U.S. and Canada, accounting for 25% of all trade between the two countries, and car plants on both sides have been forced to close or cut production this week. The confrontation came at a time when the industry is already struggling to sustain production amid a shortage of computer chips and other disruptions in supply chains caused by the pandemic.

In Ottawa, 31-year-old Stephanie Ravensbergen said she supported her aunt and uncle, who parked in the streets from the beginning. She opposed the demands for vaccines and masks and said it was important for students to see the faces and emotions of their friends.

“We want the right to choose,” Ravensbergen said. “We want to be entitled to what everyone else can do.”

Protesters on Saturday tore down a fence erected by authorities near the capital’s National War Memorial two weeks ago after protesters urinated on it. Some later chanted “liberte”, in French “freedom”.

“It’s totally unacceptable,” Canadian Veterans Affairs Minister Lawrence McAlee tweeted. “Such behavior is disappointing, and I urge protesters to respect our monuments.”

On the other side of the country, protesters disrupted work at another border crossing between Surey, British Columbia, and Blaine, Washington, but officials said it was not blocked. Border crossings in Alberta also remained closed.

While protesters condemn the use of vaccines for truckers and other restrictions against COVID-19, many Canadian public health measures, such as mask rules and vaccine passports for entry to restaurants and theaters, are already receding as the Omicron surge decreases.

The restrictions on the pandemic were much tougher there than in the United States, but Canadians largely supported them. The vast majority of Canadians are vaccinated, and the death rate from COVID-19 is one-third higher than in the United States.

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The homeowner reported from Windsor and Gillis from Toronto. Associated Press writer Ted Shafri of Ottawa, Ontario, contributed to this report.

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