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‘Freedom convoy’ protests: Ottawa protesters backtrack on deal; Police clear Ambassador Bridge blockade


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‘Freedom convoy’ protests: Ottawa protesters backtrack on deal; Police clear Ambassador Bridge blockade

There’s an intensifying demand for an end to the protests paralyzing downtown Ottawa as well as border crossings near Coutts, Alta., Emerson, Man., and the busy Windsor-Detroit Ambassador Bridge. Follow live updates here on Sunday.

10:00 p.m. Organizers of the convoy protest in Ottawa are telling demonstrators to stay put despite a missive from the mayor’s office suggesting they’d agreed to leave residential areas by noon Monday.

Jim Watson’s office said this afternoon that Freedom Convoy organizers agreed to the city’s demands to confine their protest activities to an area around Parliament Hill in exchange for a meeting with the mayor.

It released a letter it said was from convoy board president Tamara Lich, indicating protesters would comply and begin moving to their new locations on Monday.

But on Twitter, Lich now says there’s “no deal” and prominent protester Pat King claims, without providing evidence, that the letter originated with counter-protesters.

6:25 p.m. Police say a blockade of a border crossing in southern Manitoba has grown.

RCMP estimated last week there were 50 semi-trailers, farm vehicles and passenger vehicles that had blocked off access to the border, expect for emergency vehicles and livestock trucks.

Today, they say there about 75 vehicles, although they note the number fluctuates as protesters arrive and depart.

Police say all four lanes of Highway 75 at Provincial Road 200 north of the border remain blocked.

They say emergency vehicles, including police vehicles, as well as some agriculture transports continue to have access through the blockade, but otherwise no traffic is flowing in the area.

Police are advising motorists to expect substantial delays, noting officers are also reporting blizzard conditions.

6:20 p.m. RCMP say police disabled three excavators they believe were on their way to a truck blockade that’s shut down the U.S. border crossing at Coutts, Alta.

Cpl. Troy Savinkoff says police intercepted the heavy equipment on the highway north of the protest, and he says officers told them to turn back.

He says they did, but the excavators then parked on the side of the road and police suspected they planned to continue on to the protest.

Savinkoff says he doesn’t know what police did to disable the vehicles.

He says police issued dozens of tickets yesterday to vehicles involved in the protest, most of which he says were issued under the province’s Traffic Safety Act and other laws relating to road safety.

The Canada Border Services Agency said Saturday that services at the busy crossing were suspended, and Savinkoff said the status was the same on Sunday.

5:40 p.m. Four people have been arrested for mischief at the protest against COVID-19 mandates near the Pacific Highway Border Crossing in Surrey, B.C.

The highway remains blocked off by police on 176 Street and its feeder routes, but RCMP say some of the vehicles and protesters who stayed on the street overnight have now packed up and left the area.

Though the RCMP say in a release that the “border crossing remains closed,” the Canadian Border Services Agency has confirmed it is still open, but suggests travellers use a different crossing if possible.

5:35 p.m. Two outgoing members of the special forces are facing a military investigation over their alleged involvement in the protest in Ottawa.

Maj.-Gen. Steve Boivin, commander of the Canadian Special Operations Forces Command, says the first case came to the attention of senior leaders on Feb. 1, and another case on Feb. 10.

In each case, Boivin says the member is in the process of being released from the Canadian Armed Forces.

He says disciplinary investigations have started for both.

A third soldier is also subject to allegations, but Boivin says that person is not a member of the special forces.

Boivin’s statement says if the allegations are accurate, the soldiers’ actions are wrong and go against the military’s values and ethics.

5:10 p.m. More arrests have been made in connection to the days-long protest near Ambassador Bridge in Windsor, Ont.

Windsor Police Chief Pamela Mizuno say officers have made between 25 and 30 arrests, seized five vehicles today and towed seven vehicles yesterday.

Mizuno says the police service’s focus is to reopen roadways, but officers are trying to do so in a “safe and sustainable” way.

She says police are still working on their operational plans, but their main goals are to restore traffic flow in the area and reopen the bridge.

Mizuno says there will be criminal consequences for those who interfere with or interrupt traffic flow in the area by the bridge.

4:54 p.m. Protesters decrying COVID-19 restrictions and the federal government itself were moved from the mouth of a crucial trade route with the United States on Sunday, while another group stationed in Ottawa appeared to agree to leave residential streets after more than two weeks encamped in the capital’s core.

The moves at opposite ends of Canada’s most populous province came as protests continued around the country in support of those who first arrived in Ottawa more than two weeks ago.

Officers in Windsor, Ont., arrested and moved protesters at the foot of the busy Ambassador Bridge spanning the Detroit River, towing vehicles at the protest site and barring others from arriving on scene.

The plan was to have the bridge open to traffic by the end of day, resuming hundreds of millions of dollars in daily cross-border trade between Canada and the United States.

But despite the show of force as a line of officers marched on demonstrators who had clogged traffic on the key trade corridor, protesters opposed to COVID-19 restrictions and the government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau continued to wave Canadian flags and holler the word “freedom,” with one shouting into a megaphone, “This is a peaceful protest.”

3:45 p.m. The mayor of Ottawa says the city has struck a deal with protesters who have jammed downtown streets for more than two weeks that will see them move out of residential areas in the next 24 hours.

Jim Watson’s office says Freedom Convoy organizers have agreed to the city’s demands to confine their protest activities to an area around Parliament Hill.

A letter to convoy board president Tamara Lich says Watson will agree to meet with demonstrators if trucks and other vehicles taking part in the ongoing protests are out of residential neighbourhoods by noon on Monday.

A response from Lich indicates protesters will comply and begin moving to their new locations on Monday.

The letter says organizers will spend the next 24 hours “working hard … to get buy-in from the truckers” who flooded the capital to voice their opposition to public health measures put in place to combat COVID-19.

Watson’s letter to protesters says residents are “exhausted” and “on edge” due to the demonstrations and warns that some businesses teetering on the brink of permanent closure because of the disruptions.

3:32 p.m. The White House was burning up the phone lines to Canadian government officials who, the Americans said, assured the Biden administration that swift action is being taken, the Star’s Tonda MacCharles reports.

“Canadian authorities intend to reopen the Ambassador Bridge today after completing necessary safety checks. We stand ready to support our Canadian partners wherever useful in order to ensure the restoration of the normal free flow of commerce can resume,” said Biden’s homeland security advisor Liz Sherwood-Randall.

In a statement, she said she spoke with Trudeau’s national security and intelligence advisor Jody Thomas late Saturday and expressed “appreciation for the decisive law enforcement efforts that are underway,” and discussed “the imperative of taking swift, strong action and deterring future blockades.”

Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas and Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg spoke with their Canadian counterparts on Sunday and were told that “most protesters have been cleared from the Ambassador Bridge, barriers are being removed, and the corridor is being secured.”

The White House statement said Canadian authorities are taking “proactive steps” to prevent further disruptions.

3:15 p.m. Surrey RCMP says drivers should expect traffic congestion as the main route to the Pacific Highway crossing over the Canada-U.S. border remains closed.

Police say there is no access to 176 Street from 8th Avenue, 0 Avenue is blocked at 184 Street to westbound traffic and 172 Street is blocked at 8th Avenue to southbound traffic.

They’re advising drivers and pedestrians to avoid the area and use other border crossings, but say officers are working with residents to keep the neighbourhood near the border accessible for local traffic only.

2:30 p.m. Police are starting to march down Tecumseh Road in Windsor in an attempt to move protesters out of the area near the Ambassador Bridge.

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Protesters are confronting police, shouting the words “Shame on you!” and honking from their vehicles. Some are also singing O’ Canada.

Police have made some arrests.

Police officers on foot and in cruisers are still blocking access to Huron Church Road, where a stretch of the roadway was the site of a protest that shuttered the U.S.-Canada border crossing for nearly a week.

Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens has indicated the border will reopen to traffic when police and border officials decide it’s safe to do so.

2:11 p.m. The Ottawa Police Service has no detailed plan for how it would use the 1,600 reinforcements it is seeking and exactly how Chief Peter Sloly intends to end the protest, the Star has learned.

That’s the reason why the force has not yet received the massive extra officers, on top of the “hundreds” that it had already gotten from other outside forces, sources say.

Multiple policing and security sources whom the Star agreed not to identify because they are not authorized to speak about operations used the same explanation: “There is no plan.”

Read the full story from the Star’s Tonda MacCharles here.

2:08 p.m. Police made at least one more arrest Sunday afternoon, the Star’s Jacob Lorinc reports, as a handful of protesters hung around a line of police far away from the Ambassador Bridge, bringing the total number of arrests to at least 13.

The convoy has largely gone home, and the blockade has been cleared, but a few remaining protesters have continued to stick around.

Early Sunday afternoon, police sergeant Steve Betteridge said the authorities hoped to reopen the Ambassador Bridge by the end of the day.

1:45 p.m. Ontario Premier Doug Ford thanked Windsor police, OPP, RCMP and all front-line officers who worked throughout the weekend at the Ambassador Bridge, on a statement he posted to Twitter.

“I will also continue to support Mayor Watson and the Ottawa Police in their efforts to bring the occupation in that city to an end.”

1:06 p.m. The blockade is ending with a fizzle.

After a seven-day shutdown of Canada’s busiest commercial route that drew international attention and sparked sudden economic upheaval, hundreds of protesters at the heart of a social and political crisis were gradually cleared from the Ambassador Bridge on Sunday to allow for cross-border commerce to resume.

The protests eased by 9 a.m., after hundreds of police descended on the encampments blocking access to Huron Church Road, threatening to arrest the remaining demonstrators and tow the vehicles blocking the lanes, though some protesters remained at a distance from the bridge early Sunday afternoon.

While Ontario had declared a state of emergency in response to province-wide protests early Friday morning — and an Ontario court had ordered protesters in Windsor, Ont. to clear the bridge later that evening — the police waited until Sunday before clearing the path to the storied suspension bridge that spans the Detroit River.

Read the full story from the Star’s Jacob Lorinc here.

12:45 p.m. The main route to the Pacific Highway border crossing in Surrey, B.C., remains closed following Saturday’s protest against COVID-19 mandates.

Saturday’s demonstration saw some vehicles break through RCMP barricades and begin driving the wrong way down the road.

Highway cameras showed a line of RCMP vehicles blocking the highway near the border today, though protesters appear to have dispersed for now.

The Canadian Border Services Agency says the Pacific Highway port of entry remains open, but travellers are being advised there may be delays due to blockades in the area.

It is encouraging people to use other border crossings if possible.

12 p.m. Police in Fredericton say they dealt with a few minor offences as the protest near the provincial legislature moved into a third day, though things were largely uneventful.

Public Information Officer Alycia Bartlett issued a statement this morning saying police made one arrest for breach of the peace and issued a by-law ticket for fireworks.

She says police also intervened with a personal drone flying around the protest site yesterday.

At 10:30 p.m. local time last night, Transport Canada issued a notice for a 4.8-kilometre radius around the area, restricting personal, remotely piloted aircraft from flying around the protest site.

11:56 a.m. The mayor of Windsor says the blockade that shuttered the Ambassador Bridge border crossing for nearly a week is over.

Drew Dilkens issued a statement saying the crossing that links Windsor and Detroit will reopen as soon as it’s safe to do so, noting police and border agencies will be tasked with making that call.

Police cleared several protesters from the site earlier in the morning.

They say they arrested nearly a dozen people and laid several charges, mostly on counts of mischief.

Dilkens offered thanks to law enforcement officials for their help in ending what he described as a “national economic crisis” caused by the border closure.

10:37 a.m. Police are telling people gathered in a gas station parking lot near the intersection of Huron Church Road and Tecumseh Road to leave or they will be arrested and ticketed for trespassing.

The intersection is currently blocked off by several officers, two armoured vehicles, a transit bus and City of Windsor vehicles as police respond to the so-called ‘Freedom convoy’ protest near the Ambassador Bridge border crossing between Canada and the U.S.

This comes after police made some arrests in relation to the protest, though details were not immediately available.

Police are telling the public to avoid the area.

9:02 a.m. Police have cleared a week-long protest at the Ambassador Bridge that drew international attention and cost the Canadian economy millions, though the bridge remains closed to the public.

By 8:50 a.m. police had effectively cleared the roadway of all remaining protesters and were standing in a line across the road, the Star’s Jacob Lorinc reports. Some protesters were hanging around in an adjacent parking lot, but many got in their vehicles and left.

The roadway has not yet opened back up to the public.

8:50 a.m. Early Sunday morning, a throng of police moved to clear the remaining encampment blocking access to Huron Church Road, the eight-lane artery leading to the Ambassador Bridge.

A dwindling group of protesters had camped out on the roadway overnight, reports the Star’s Jacob Lorinc from the bridge, squaring off with a line of police for hours in freezing weather as they protested pandemic restrictions.

Even around 1 a.m., they were playing loud music and chanting, “Freedom!”

But starting at 7:30 a.m., a procession of police moved in to begin clearing the roadway. The police, equipped with armoured vehicles, tear gas and rubber bullet guns, warned that protesters who did not leave would be arrested and charged with mischief.

As of 8:30 a.m. at least two people had been arrested and several trucks towed.

8:30 a.m. Windsor Police say enforcement actions are underway at the foot of the bridge, saying they’re towing vehicles still at the protest site and barring anyone else from arriving on scene.

Enforcement efforts got underway on Saturday morning, but appeared to reach an impasse in the afternoon as hundreds of protesters ignored requests to clear the area.

The Ontario Superior Court had granted an injunction on Friday ordering an end to the protests by 7 p.m. that night, but it was largely ignored.

The demonstration in Windsor, as well as cities and border crossings across Canada, are being held in solidarity with protesters who have jammed downtown Ottawa streets for more than two weeks.

The protesters are demanding an end to all public health measures imposed to combat COVID-19, while critics and public officials have described their actions as illegal and called for an end to the demonstrations.

6:06 a.m. Windsor Police officers arrested a man near Ambassador Bridge for a “criminal offence in relation to the demonstration” Saturday night. The 27-year-old man was arrested near the Huron Church Rd at Millen Street intersection, police said in a tweet.

“Officers will intervene when necessary to ensure the safety of the public & maintain peace & order,” they added.

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