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Police clear out truckers, but protesters on foot keep U.S.-Canada bridge closed

Police arrive to clear protesters and their vehicles from a blockade at the entrance to the Ambassador Bridge in Windsor, Ontario on Saturday.
Cole Burston
Getty Images
Police arrive to clear protesters and their vehicles from a blockade at the entrance to the Ambassador Bridge in Windsor, Ontario on Saturday.

Updated February 12, 2022 at 3:25 PM ET

After police stepped in Saturday, protesters in trucks and other vehicles left a bridge between the United States and Canada, marking a potential turning point in the fifth day of protests that have disrupted a crucial border trade crossing.

But as of Saturday afternoon, hundreds of protesters were walking around the Ambassador Bridge in Windsor, Ontario, according toThe Detroit News — a significant increase from the morning, when only a few dozen were present. It was unclear when the bridge would reopen.

Throughout the week, hordes of truckers parked pickup and semis across the bridge, protesting Canada's COVID-19 vaccine mandate and additional public health precautions that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau implemented.

"Enforcement continuing, individuals who are located within the demonstration area are subject to arrest. People are advised to immediately vacate the area," Windsor police tweeted just a few hours afterannouncing it had "commenced enforcement" at the bridge.

The process of beginning to remove the truckers marks a change from Friday night when the crowds grew in size, disregarding federal ordersto disperse.

On Friday, Ontario Premier Doug Ford declared a state of emergency — signaling that any protesters arrested would be met with fines reaching $100,000 and could face up to a year in jail.

The order prompted Ontario Superior Court Chief Justice Geoffrey Morawetz to intervene, issuing an injunction that gave protesters until 7 p.m. Friday to leave without facing punishment.

But many truckers stayed, deciding to continue the blockade through the night.

The blockade has hampered automakers

The Ambassador Bridge marks a key border crossing — a fourth of U.S.-Canada trade passes through it.

The blockade has particularly worsened supply-chain problems and caused production delays across the auto industry.

Major automakers, including General Motors, Ford and Stellantis, were forced to cancel shifts or reduce capacity at locations in Michigan and Ontario.

Canada has seen a frenzy of similar protests over the past weeks, including within the capital city of Ottawa and at U.S. border crossings in Alberta and Manitoba.

"I want to make something very clear," Trudeau said in an address Friday night. "The illegal blockades seeking to take our neighborhoods and our economy hostage, and that collective COVID fatigue we are facing, are two very separate things. If you joined the protests because you're tired of COVID, you now need to understand you're breaking laws.

"We've heard your frustration with COVID, with the measures that are there to keep people safe," Trudeau added, "We've heard you. It's time to go home now."

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Elena Moore is a production assistant for the NPR Politics Podcast. She also fills in as a reporter for the NewsDesk. Moore previously worked as a production assistant for Morning Edition. During the 2020 presidential campaign, she worked for the Washington Desk as an editorial assistant, doing both research and reporting. Before coming to NPR, Moore worked at NBC News. She is a graduate of The George Washington University in Washington, D.C., and is originally and proudly from Brooklyn, N.Y.