The mayor of the Canada-US border town says protesters could be removed by force

  • Disruptions force US automakers to scale back operations
  • Closing bridges makes governments look for alternative routes

WINDSOR/WASHINGTON, Feb 10 (Reuters) – A Canadian mayor said Thursday police are ready to physically remove anti-coronavirus mandate protesters who have blocked a key US-Canada trade route and forced US automakers to limit operations.

The closure of the Ambassador Bridge, one of the busiest border crossings in North America and a supply route for Detroit’s automakers, is prompting US and Canadian officials to seek alternative trade routes to limit the economic damage.

Canadian truckers began the protests as a “freedom convoy” occupying the capital Ottawa, defying a vaccination or quarantine mandate for cross-border drivers mirrored by the US government. They began closing the Embassy Bridge on Monday and have since closed two smaller border crossings.

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Canadian federal ministers have called the blockade illegal and urged protesters to return home. Police near the Ambassador Bridge have begun to receive additional manpower, Drew Dilkens, mayor of Windsor, Ontario, which borders Detroit, told CNN.

“(If) the protesters don’t leave, there has to be a way forward. If that means physically removing them, that means physically removing them, and we’re ready for that,” Dilkens said.

Ottawa police are promising tougher measures to end protests that have occupied the main downtown street that runs in front of Parliament, the Bank of Canada and the Prime Minister’s office.

With traffic temporarily closed in both directions, General Motors Co (GM.N) and Chrysler parent Stellantis (STLA.MI) said Thursday they had to cancel or reduce shifts due to parts shortages to match earlier cuts announced by Ford to tie up Motor Co (FN) and Toyota Motor Corp. (7203.T)

The Ambassador Bridge was fully closed in both directions at 12 noon EST (1700 GMT) on Thursday, according to a Reuters witness.

DIVERTING THE LOAD

The protests have been at a standstill in Ottawa for almost two weeks. Similar protests have also erupted in Australia, New Zealand and France as the highly contagious Omicron variant of the coronavirus begins to recede in some places. Continue reading

Asked about the protests, White House economic adviser Brian Deese told MSNBC that President Joe Biden’s administration is “working in real time to reroute cargo — that’s an imperfect solution — either to rail or through other bridges.” or by water”.

Deese said that while Washington supports legitimate, peaceful protests, “measures like this, which just hurt the economy, hurt families who are just trying to make a living… really don’t make sense.”

More than two-thirds of the $511 billion worth of goods traded annually between Canada and the United States are transported by road. Protesters blocked a second crossing in the province of Alberta late Tuesday and a third crossing between the province of Manitoba and North Dakota on Thursday.

“There’s no question that (Manitoba’s economy) is vulnerable,” said Chuck Davidson, CEO of the Manitoba Chamber of Commerce, of the crossing, a vital connection for piglets traveling north by truck to U.S. farms and U.S. animal feed.

“It would matter if there’s an extended period of time when it shuts down.”

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Reporting by Carlos Osorio in Windsor, Chris Gallagher and David Shepardson in Washington, Rod Nickel in Manitoba, Ismail Shakil in Bengarulu; Writing by Rami Ayyub; Edited by Richard Chang, Mark Porter and Grant McCool

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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