US urges Canada to use federal powers to end bridge blockade

  • A trucker supporter sits on a couch as they block the access leading from the Ambassador Bridge, linking Detroit and Windsor, as truckers and their supporters continue to protest against the COVID-19 vaccine mandates and restrictions Wednesday in Windsor, Ontario. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press via AP)

TORONTO — The Biden administration urged Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government Thursday to use its federal powers to end the truck blockade by Canadians protesting the country’s COVID-19 restrictions, as the bumper-to-bumper demonstration forced auto plants on both sides of the border to shut down or scale back production.

For the fourth straight day, scores of truckers taking part in what they dubbed the Freedom Convoy blocked the Ambassador Bridge connecting Windsor, Ontario, to Detroit, disrupting the flow of auto parts and other products between the two countries.

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The White House said Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg spoke with their Canadian counterparts and urged them to help resolve the standoff.

Federal Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino said Royal Canadian Mounted Police reinforcements are being sent to Windsor, Ottawa and Coutts, Alberta where another border blockade is happening.

A federal government official said they are not ruling out any options. The official spoke on condition of anonymity as they were not authorized to speak publicly.

Trudeau is meeting with leaders of Canada’s opposition leaders late Thursday.

Conservative Ontario Premier Doug Ford, meanwhile, moved to cut off funding for the protests by successfully asking a court to freeze millions of dollars in donations to the convoy through crowd-funding site GiveSendGo. Ford has called the protests an occupation.

Canadian officials previously got GoFundMe to cut off funding after protest organizers used the site to raise about 10 million Canadian dollars ($7.8 million.) GoFundMe determined that the fundraising effort violated the site’s terms of service due to unlawful activity.

With political and economic pressure mounting, Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens announced the city will seek a court injunction to end the occupation.

“The economic harm is not sustainable and it must come to an end,” he said.

In the U.S., authorities braced for the possibility of similar truck-borne protests inspired by the Canadians, and authorities in Paris and Belgium banned road blockades to head off disruptions there, too.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security said in a bulletin to local and state law enforcement agencies that it has received reports that truckers are planning to “potentially block roads in major metropolitan cities” in a protest against vaccine mandates and other issues.

The agency said the convoy could begin in Southern California as early as this weekend, possibly disrupting traffic around the Super Bowl, and reach Washington in March in time for the State of the Union address, according to a copy of Tuesday’s bulletin obtained by The Associated Press.

The White House said the department is “surging additional staff” to the Super Bowl just in case.

The ban on road blockades in Europe and the threat of prison and heavy fines were likewise prompted by online chatter from groups calling on drivers to converge on Paris and Brussels over the next few days.

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