Police cleared Canada’s ‘Freedom Convoy’ protesters from the Ambassador Bridge, but truckers in Ottawa won’t budge

February 14, 2022, 11:25 AM UTC

On Sunday police moved the last remaining “Freedom Convoy” protesters from the Ambassador Bridge, the primary economic land link between the U.S. and Canada, after a court declared the occupation illegal. But in the nation’s capital, anti–vaccine mandate protesters refuse to move, seemingly backtracking on a deal reached with the city’s mayor to relocate trucks from residential neighborhoods.

In Windsor, Ontario, protesters, who objected to vaccine mandates for truckers and Canada’s other COVID measures, had occupied the bridge connecting Canada with Detroit since last Monday, clogging up a thoroughfare that accounts for 25% of cross-border trade. Although authorities initially worked with protesters at the bridge to ensure areas of the interlink remained open, the Ontario provincial governor warned that the “illegal occupation” of the bridge “must stop.”

On Friday, a local court issued an injunction banning the protest, prompting most of the Ambassador Bridge protesters to leave voluntarily. However, police were forced to clear a dozen holdouts on Sunday. The largely peaceful dissolution of at least 70 trucks that blockaded the bridge marked a relatively quiet end to an affair that had snarled international supply lines.

But the Ambassador Bridge blockade was just an offshoot of the larger “Freedom Convoy” protests that continue to occupy streets in downtown Ottawa, the nation’s capital.

In Ottawa, anti–vaccine mandate protesters have held out for over two weeks, occupying areas of the city by parking heavy trucks across roads and disrupting daily life by blaring their horns and refusing to move. Some in the city support the protest movement and have offered funding and food to the occupying truckers, many of whom drove in from out of state. But the protests have also sparked counterprotests in the city, as residents complain about the noise and disruption.

On Saturday, the office of Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson said the city had reached a deal with the protesters to move their trucks to designated protest areas, clearing encampments in residential districts.

“My overarching concern is for the safety and security of our residents, business owners, and workers in the downtown core, who are innocent collateral damage of this unprecedented national and international demonstration,” Watson wrote in a letter to Tamara Lich, one of the protest organizers.

In a letter made public by Watson’s office, Lich wrote that the protest organizers had agreed to the mayor’s request and were working to move the group’s trucks to an area around Parliament Hill, where there are fewer homes and more open space, starting Monday.

“The Freedom Convoy Board agree with your request to reduce pressure on the residents and businesses in the City of Ottawa,” Lich wrote. However, it remains unclear whether protesters will begin relocating their trucks on Monday.

After news broke that a deal had been made, Lich took to Twitter to first deny any “deal” had been struck between protesters and the city but then tweeted that “plans to relocate trucks out of residential areas as agreed to will go ahead.”

That is, if the protesters Lich represents agree to move on. According to Watson, it could take 72 hours for the convoy to navigate its way across the city to a designated protest spot. And clearing the truckers from downtown Ottawa will be harder than moving the protesters from Ambassador Bridge.

Pickup trucks, which are easy to forcibly move, formed most of the blockade at the Ambassador Bridge, but in Ottawa protesters have blocked roads with heavy rigs that are difficult to tow away. If protesters haven’t agreed to drive out of residential neighborhoods voluntarily, it will be days yet before the weeks-long protests can be moved.

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