WINDSOR, ONTARIO — Commercial trucks and other vehicles flowed steadily over the reopened Ambassador Bridge on Monday, with police in Windsor, Ont., keeping a close watch on the busy international border crossing.
Traffic resumed on the key trade route just before midnight after being blocked for nearly a week due to a protest against COVID-19 measures on the Canadian side of the span.
Police had moved in to clear demonstrators on Sunday, making more than two dozen arrests. On Monday, cruisers were seen along a road leading to the crossing, while certain intersections were blocked to prevent demonstrators from returning. Large commercial trucks and smaller vehicles lumbered onto and off the bridge, with a police officer helping to direct traffic.
Windsor police issued a warning that “enforcement is ongoing” in the area.
“There will be zero tolerance for illegal activity,” the forced tweeted.
A short distance away from the bridge, a handful of protesters had set up at the corner of an intersection, carrying Canadian flags and letting out occasional shouts of “freedom.”
Tristan Emond, who has been participating in the earlier demonstration since Friday evening, said the group plans to protest peacefully until an agreement is reached with the Canadian government to remove COVID-19 restrictions in the country.
“We are hoping to go back,” Emond said of a plan to return to the foot of the bridge. “For now we’ll hold our own here …. we have talked to police officers and they have said it’s OK for us to protest here as long as we stay on the sidewalk.”
Emond, who noted he had two shots of a COVID-19 vaccine, said he was out protesting because he’s tired of the repeated shutdowns brought on by the pandemic.
“We do not want our freedoms taken away any more, we want our country back,” he said.
Windsor resident Darnell Vanhorn said he was frustrated with the protests that had disrupted local life for days.
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“It was like a teenager having a fit because they aren’t getting their own way,” he said of the demonstration that blocked the bridge, noting that the protest had disrupted schooling for his children and made it tough for him to take his usual route home from work.
“I think the city could have done a better job, a swifter job.”
Kaitlyn Buttenham also wished police had acted sooner, saying the protest at the bridge had made her feel unsafe
“I’m all for protests and they work when you do them right but this one has gotten out of hand and it’s too much,” she said, adding that she worried about dropping off and picking up her young daughter from school since the building was close to the bridge.
“It’s affecting everybody now, not just the people protesting.”
The Ambassador Bridge sees hundreds of millions of dollars in imports and exports cross it each day, and politicians on both sides of the border had decried the economic impact of the protest that blocked the span.
The chairman of Detroit International Bridge Company, which owns the bridge, called Monday for a plan to protect against similar disruptions in the future.
“We must join together to come up with an actionable plan that will protect and secure all border crossings in the Canada/U.S. corridor and ensure that this kind of disruption to critical infrastructure will never happen again,” Matt Moroun wrote in a statement.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford, who declared a state of emergency on Friday in response to the blockade in Windsor and an ongoing protest in Ottawa, said there would be no tolerance for those who caused further disruption.
“We’re going to make sure those borders are secure, that vehicles and trucks and transports and people can get across the border peacefully. I’m not going to tolerate anarchy at our borders or anywhere else,” he said at a news conference Monday.
“We need to get back to get back to business.”
Last week’s protest at the bridge affected three of Toyota Motor Manufacturing Canada’s production lines, pushed Ford Canada to reduce capacity at its Oakville, Ont., and Windsor plants and curbed manufacturing capacity at Chrysler and Dodge-maker Stellantis and Honda Canada.
On Monday, Toyota said it expected disruptions caused by the border blockade to continue for the day but Stellantis said its operations had resumed.
“We will not comment on projected losses, but will look to make up that production in the coming months,” Stellantis spokesperson LouAnn Gosselin wrote in a statement.
“We are working with our carriers to get parts into the plants as quickly as possible to mitigate any further disruptions.”
Honda Canada said it would run production only on one line on Monday, but noted that was due to previously scheduled downtime unrelated to the border disruption.