Canadian police have moved in to remove truckers from a blockade at one the busiest border crossings to the US.
It comes a day after an Ontario court granted an injunction to bring the barricade, which has now entered its sixth day, at the Ambassador Bridge to an end.
Protesters remained overnight despite new warnings to end the blockade that has disrupted the flow of goods between the two countries and forced the auto industry on both sides to roll back production.
A city bus and a school bus arrived at the scene on Saturday morning, before police moved in “formation” towards them, according to local media. One of the protesters used a megaphone to alert others that police were coming for the demonstrators, who are protesting against Canada’s Covid mandates and restrictions.
“The Windsor Police & its policing partners have commenced enforcement at and near the Ambassador Bridge. We urge all demonstrators to act lawfully & peacefully. Commuters are still being asked to avoid the areas affected by the demonstrations at this time,” police tweeted.
On Friday, Ontario Premier Doug Ford declared a state of emergency in the province that will allow his cabinet to impose $100,000 (£73,732) fines and up to one year in jail as punishments against people who continue to illegally block roads, bridges, walkways and other critical infrastructure.
Chief justice Geoffrey Morawetz, of the Ontario Superior Court, issued an injunction giving protesters blocking cross-border traffic until 7pm on Friday to clear out.
However, the deadline came and went.Windsor police immediately warned that anyone blocking the streets could be subject to arrest and their vehicles could be seized. The news was met earlier with defiance by protesters.
The Ambassador Bridge is the busiest US-Canadian border crossing, carrying 25 per cent of all trade between the two countries. The standoff comes at a time when the auto industry is already struggling to maintain production in the face of pandemic-induced shortages of computer chips and other supply-chain disruptions.
At the protest site earlier, a man grabbed a microphone and addressed the crowd, asking if they wanted to stay or leave when the deadline rolled around. After an applause, it was agreed they would stay. “OK,” the man said. “Let’s stand tall.” The protesters responded by singing the Canadian national anthem.
While attendees are rallying against vaccine mandates for truckers and other coronavirus restrictions, many of the country’s infection measures, such as mask rules and vaccine passports for getting into restaurants and theatres are already falling away as the omicron surge levels off.
Covid rules have been stricter in Canada than in the US, but Canadians have largely supported them. The vast majority of Canadians are vaccinated, and the Covid death rate is one-third that of the United States.
Mr Trudeau said he and President Biden discusses “the American and indeed global influences on the protest” during their call yesterday.
He added: “We talked about the US-based flooding of the 911 phone lines in Ottawa, the presence of US citizens in the blockade and the impact of foreign money to fund this illegal activity.”