WINDSOR, ONTARIO — Commercial trucks and other vehicles flowed steadily over the reopened Ambassador Bridge on Monday as the City of Windsor took steps to ensure unimpeded access to the busy border crossing following nearly a week of protests that disrupted operations.
Mayor Drew Dilkens signed a declaration of emergency that he said would help keep traffic flowing to and from the bridge, which reopened just before midnight.
“It will allow us to deal in real time should something happen in the very near future that we’re all hoping doesn’t happen, with respect to a repeat of what we saw in the last seven days,” Dilkens said, noting the measure was temporary..
The city will effectively turn the main road connecting to the bridge into a thoroughfare from Highway 401, with no vehicular access from side roads.
The move came a day after police cleared a protest against COVID-19 measures that had been blocking the Windsor side of the bridge that links to Detroit for days. Police said they arrested more than 40 protesters and towed 37 vehicles, noting there were no significant injuries.
Deputy Chief Jason Bellaire said police had released all but two of the protesters, who’ve been ordered to remain away from the area. Those arrested came from a “mixed bag”, he said, some locally and some from many hours away.
Officers are “looking and listening” to see if protests will erupt at the border crossing again, Bellaire said.
“It is possible people will come back,” he said. “If they do, we will be ready for them.”
Large commercial trucks and smaller vehicles lumbered onto and off the bridge on Monday as police cruisers lined a road leading to the crossing.
Several cross-border truckers said they were glad the bridge had reopened.
Abe Nelson said he hadn’t been able to work for a few days due to the disruption. The 62-year-old trucker said he disapproved of the way in which the protesters had carried out their demonstration.
“They have the right, but do it on a different place,” he said. “It’s going to be in the billions that’s going to be lost. Our time and the big factories where we supply parts, all that.”
Trucker Simplice Mahoukpo said he had to take different routes across the border due to the blockade.
“I’m happy about the border (being) open, makes the job easier,” he said.
Earlier in the day, a handful of protesters set up at the corner of an intersection a short distance from the road leading to the bridge, 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 hoped to eventually return to the foot of the border bridge.
“For now we’ll hold our own here,” said Emond, who explained 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.”
Windsor resident Darnell Vanhorn said he was frustrated with the protests that had disrupted local life for days.
“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 it 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.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford, who declared a state of emergency 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 Monday.
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.
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.
– with files from Liam Casey in Toronto.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 14, 2022.
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