Protesters are willing to “die” for their cause, says Windsor, Ontario mayor
Trying to forcibly remove truckers blockading the busiest US-Canadian border crossing at Ambassador Bridge could lead to violence and even death, the mayor of Windsor, Ontario cautioned on Wednesday, while his police chief called for a “diplomatic” approach.
“You have a number of people who are … part of the protest group who have openly stated … they feel such a passion for this particular cause that they are willing to die for it,” Mayor Drew Dilkens told reporters on Wednesday. “If you have people who hold that sentiment, the situation can escalate and get very dangerous for police and those members of the public in very short order. It’s fair to say we don’t want to see anyone get hurt.”
Dilkens added that he’s been getting calls from Windsor residents and businesses demanding the forcible removal of the truckers, but said “such action may inflame the situation and cause more folks to come and join the protest.”
The Ambassador Bridge runs between Windsor and Detroit, Michigan. It has been closed to commercial traffic since Monday, when several dozen truckers set up a blockade on the Canadian side, in solidarity with the “Freedom Convoy” in Ottawa. Another group of truckers and farmers has been blockading a border crossing in the western province of Alberta for over a week as well.
The Detroit-Windsor bridge traffic accounts for about $355 million worth of goods traded between the US and Canada, more than a quarter of all commerce between the two countries. Canadian authorities have tried to route trucks to the Blue Water Bridge in nearby Sarnia. On Wednesday, truckers and farmers parked their vehicles near that bridge as well, causing a 4.5- hour delay to enter the US, said the Canada Border Services Agency.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has refused to meet with the protesters in Ottawa, calling them a “fringe minority with unacceptable views” and accusing them of violence, racism, bigotry and even Nazi sympathies. Other Canadian officials have denounced the trucker protests as an “insurrection” and a “threat to our democracy.”
Trudeau’s Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino called the bridge protests illegal, telling the truckers, “you are hurting Canadians and you are not above the law.”
“This is an illegal economic blockade against the people of Ontario and against all Canadians,” said Transport Minister Omar Alghabra, adding that they are putting supply chains of food and manufacturer parts at risk.
In an effort to disperse the protest outside the Canadian parliament, Ottawa Police threatened to arrest the protesting truckers and seize their vehicles.
Truckers protesting the Trudeau government’s Coovid-19 vaccine mandates started the “Freedom Convoy” on January 22 and drove across Canada, arriving in Ottawa seven days later. They are demanding an end to all restrictions imposed in the name of fighting the pandemic.
The Windsor blockade consists of about 100 people and 50-75 vehicles, Police Chief Pam Mizuno told reporters on Wednesday. Police issued four citations for “moving violations” on Monday.
“Our goal is to open all lanes of traffic … and to do that we are taking a diplomatic approach,” Mizuno said. Police are trying to negotiate with the protesters, but are having trouble identifying a leader with whom to talk, she added.