WINDSOR, Ontario – Windsor officials are seeking an injunction to end the “illegal occupation” of the Ambassador Bridge, and the city’s mayor said protesting truck drivers “will be removed,” if they don’t leave voluntarily.
“The individuals on site are trespassing on municipal property and, if need be, will be removed to allow for the safe and efficient movement of goods across the border,” Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens said during a Thursday afternoon (Feb. 10) briefing.
Gov. Whitmer on Ambassador Bridge closure: ‘My message is simple: Reopen traffic on the bridge’
He said he remains hopeful that a peaceful resolution will be reached, and additional resources are being deployed to negotiate and end to the four-day blockade.
“We can’t just let this lawlessness continue to happen. We respect that everyone has a right to protest. It’s a hallmark of democracy. That is OK. What is not OK is choking off the busiest border crossing between the United States and Canada and affecting tens of thousands of families and their ability to put food on their table.”
Dilkens said Windsor City Council authorized seeking an injunction from the superior court to end the occupation of the bridge.
“The economic harm that this occupation is having on international trade is not sustainable, and it must come to an end,” he said. “As you can expect, this news conference will serve as a clarion call to activists and protesters who may seek to reinforce the occupation to prevent the reopening of the Ambassador Bridge.”
He said the plan is to be in front of a superior court judge as soon as possible, hopefully sometime Thursday.
In the meantime, Windsor authorities won’t provide any additional details, for security purposes.
“To those who are thinking about joining the protest, let me just say this: You are not welcome here,” Dilkens said.
Truckers protesting vaccine mandate
The convoy began with a subset of truckers protesting Canada’s federal rule requiring everyone to be vaccinated for COVID-19 to return to Canada. Proof of vaccination has to be provided to cross the border.
But over the course of the demonstration, the protest has gone too far, according to the mayor.
“This has taken on a life of its own that is way above and beyond how the original trucker convoy movement started,” Dilkens said.
He said he has tried to put himself in the shoes of the demonstrators over the past couple of weeks and understand their perspective, but, “Sadly, I’m no further ahead in figuring this out.”
Dilkens called the convoy very much a “leaderless movement.”
“There are multiple parties who believe that they represent the group, when in fact, no one really represents this group,” Dilkens said. “The protesters themselves are not cohesive. There are certainly frustrating efforts by police to negotiate and be sensible through this and it just further exacerbates a problem when you’re trying to work sensibly to find a resolution, yet you have parties on the other side that will agree in the short-term and then change their mind quickly thereafter.”
‘Our fellow Canadians’
Dilkens said the right to peacefully protest is protected, but because the Ambassador Bridge represents one-third of the trade between Canada and the United States, action needs to be taken.
He said the occupation is having a “profound impact” on the economic wellbeing of both Canadian and American businesses and families.
“Let me just say this: This is a national crisis, and while I don’t agree with the individuals occupying the Ambassador Bridge, I do appreciate that they are our neighbors,” Dilkens said. “These are folks who have been so disturbed by the pandemic and impacted by the public health restrictions that they have been motivated to take such a dramatic step.”
He said it’s important to remember that the demonstrators are “our fellow Canadians” and they have a fundamental right to their views and their opinions.
“They don’t have a right to affect you or your family’s right to earn a living, and they’ve gone too far,” he said.
What happens next?
Dilkens said several times throughout the briefing that he hopes the protesters will leave the bridge voluntarily. But if that doesn’t happen, an injunction would give authorities the right to take matter into their own hands.
“Everyone wants to know, ‘When are you going to move in?’” Dilkens said. “We hope not to have to move in. We hope we can get the protesters to see the light of day and recognize that the easiest way out of this is for them to voluntarily get in their cars and drive away.”
He said sufficient law enforcement officials are available if it comes to that. They have already been alerted, just in case.
“We’re going to make sure we have the right number of people here to be able to enforce the injunction, and if we can’t gain compliance voluntarily, then other measures will have to be taken,” Dilkens said.
Michigan has also offered to send over heavy equipment to help remove vehicles and provide security, he said.
“They’ve offered to do whatever is required to help end this blockade, as well,” Dilkens said.
You can watch the full briefing below.