Latest Canada updates: Police clear protesters occupying bridge

Canada news from February 12: Police begin clearing demonstrators blocking bridge to the US after a court order to end the blockade took effect.

Police officers stand guard on a road leading to the bridge to the US
Police officers stand guard as truckers and supporters continue blocking access to the Ambassador Bridge, which connects Detroit and Windsor [Carlos Osorio/Reuters]

Canadian police say they are enforcing a court order to clear protesters occupying a key bridge on the Canada-US border after a judge granted an injunction to end the blockade by people opposing COVID-19 pandemic restrictions.

The police action on Saturday comes after demonstrators blocked the Ambassador Bridge, a vital link between Windsor, Ontario, prompting calls from US President Joe Biden to end the blockade. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised Biden quick action to end the crisis.

On Friday, a judge granted an injunction to end the occupation while the province of Ontario declared an emergency.

Hello, I’m Mersiha Gadzo and welcome to Al Jazeera’s continuing coverage of Canada’s truck protesters.

The live blog is now closed; thank you for joining us. Here are the updates for Saturday, February 12:

Party atmosphere continues on Wellington Street, Ottawa

A crowd exceeding 10,000 people have made their way between the trucks towards parliament building, Al Jazeera contributor Roger Lemoyne has reported.

Many wave Canadian flags, with some draping them as capes and others tying the flags to hockey sticks.

Earlier on the road from Montreal to Ottawa, many vehicles were seen with the message “Freedom” displayed.

Closure of Rideau Centre mall costs an estimated $40m: News anchor

Graham Richardson, chief news anchor at CTV Ottawa, has reported that the closure of the Rideau Centre mall in downtown Ottawa as a result of the truckers’ protest is estimated to cost $40m.

“Many people in Ottawa believe if this was Yorkdale or Sherway [shopping malls in Toronto] it would never get to this point,” Richardson said on Twitter.

14 vehicles blocking four lanes that lead to bridge: Reporter

The Toronto Star’s Jacob Lorinc has reported that 14 vehicles are still blocking four lanes that lead to the Ambassador Bridge in Windsor.

“Police moving up slowly, but very slowly,” he wrote on Twitter.

Protesters remain at Parliament Hill

Hundreds of people and dozens of trucks remained along Wellington Street in front of Parliament Hill and around downtown Ottawa, where many have been parked since the end of January.

Trucks have been honking their horns continuously in the area as police officers sat parked in nearby vehicles.

A stage has been set up on the street in front of Parliament Hill where a lineup of speakers are set to address the crowd.

Counterprotest forms at Lansdowne Park, Ottawa

A counterprotest has gathered approximately 2,000 people at Lansdowne Park in Ottawa, Al Jazeera contributor Roger Lemoyne has reported.

The group comprising of members from the LGBTQ community, workers’ unions, the Canadian communist party and people from all walks of life are marching down Bank Street towards Parliament Hill.

200 protesters gather in Windsor: Reporter

The CBC’s Thomas Daigle has reported that 200 protesters are staying put in Windsor, six hours after police moved in to clear the blockade at Ambassador Bridge.

Protesters in Ottawa remove fencing: Reporter

Abigail Bimmann, Ottawa correspondent for Global News has reported that protesters – many of whom appear to be veterans – are removing fencing that was set up around the war memorial in the capital.

“One officer told a fence dismantler that protection of the memorial was now their responsibility,” Bimmann said on Twitter.

“2nd officer tried to take names of dismantlers but outnumbered by crowd who started moving in on them chanting very loudly.”

A lot of pressure on Trudeau to act: Journalist

Journalist Dan Karpenchuk told Al Jazeera from Toronto that there has been a lot of pressure on Trudeau to respond to the protests which have had an effect economically and politically.

“Economically, there are now shortages [due to protesters occupying the Ambassador Bridge]. The supply chain is being choked off. A lot of pressure is coming on Prime Minister Trudeau to do something about this,” Karpenchuk said.

“He said everything is on the table as far as dealing with the protesters; what he meant by that is not clear. He did refer to not wanting to say more because of fears of violence.

“He’s been in contact with the US; Washington has taken notice. He’s been in contact with Biden. The US has offered help, but what kind of help, we don’t know.”

Six different police forces dispatched: Windsor deputy police chief

Windsor’s deputy police chief Jason Bellaire has told the Toronto Star’s Jacob Lorinc that six different Canadian police forces were dispatched to Windsor to clear protesters from occupying the Ambassador Bridge.

“The city acquired tow trucks from Michigan to help remove protesters’ vehicles,” Lorinc wrote on Twitter.

Ambassador Bridge still closed

The Toronto Star’s Jacob Lorinc has reported that Windsor police have pushed people back from the intersection in front of the Ambassador Bridge, which remains closed.

Huron Church Road is still crowded with protesters and police, he wrote on Twitter.

RCMP reinforcements arrive at Windsor protest site

CBC reporter Thomas Daigle has reported that Royal Canadian Mounted Police reinforcements have arrived at the protest site in Windsor including “officers in military-style gear”.

TD Bank freezes two accounts that received funds in support of protests

Toronto-Dominion Bank has frozen two personal bank accounts into which $1.1m had been deposited to support protesters fighting the government’s pandemic measures, a bank spokesperson has said.

TD applied with the Ontario Superior Court of Justice on Friday to take the funds, which were sent through GoFundMe and bank transfers, so they can either be sent to the intended recipients or returned to the donors “who have requested refunds but whose entitlement to a refund cannot be determined by TD,” the bank said in a statement.

Toronto police expand road closures before protests

Toronto police have expanded road closures in the city’s downtown area in advance of expected protests in solidarity with protests in Ottawa.

In a tweet, Toronto police said roads are closed from “Church Street to the east, Spadina Avenue to the west, Queen Street to the South, and Dupont Street to the north.

“All east to west traffic will be diverted,” it said earlier, with the exception of the city’s public transportation.

400 transport trucks within zone closest to Parliament Hill: Reporter

Judy Trinh, reporter CBC News told Al Jazeera from Ottawa that, “within the red zone closest to Parliament Hill, there are still about 400 heavy transport trucks.

“Our largest shopping centre has not been open for 15 days. We are now going on day 16 of a protest, of an occupation, and someone would even use the word ‘siege’ that has locked down the city’s core,” Trinh said.

‘There is talk of overthrowing the government’: Reporter

Judy Trinh, reporter for broadcaster CBC News told Al Jazeera from Ottawa that what began as a protest movement to end COVID-19 restrictions has evolved into “talk of overthrowing the government” in the capital.

“They wanted to end vaccine mandates, they wanted to end restrictions for truckers; in order to work in Canada they had to get vaccinated, and that was also a restriction in the US,” Trinh said.

“That’s what it began with. But now there is talk of overthrowing the government here in the parliament. It is anti-government, and it is also highly motivated by forces who want to destabilise this democracy.”

More protests expected elsewhere in Canada

More protests are expected today in Fredericton, New Brunswick. Local police said officers are stationed at entrances to the city to ensure traffic can flow freely.

Protests are also expected in Toronto, Ontario, the financial capital.

Live video from the Ambassador Bridge

Isabelle Rivo, social media contributor for Rebel News is live streaming on Twitter from the scene at Ambassador Bridge:

‘Protesters are agreeing to leave’: Journalist

Glen McGregor, journalist for broadcaster CTV news has said that “protesters are agreeing to leave”.

“Just trucks and SUVs driving away, so far,” he wrote on Twitter.

Paris police disperse COVID protesters near Arc de Triomphe

Meanwhile in Paris, police have thrown volleys of tear gas grenades near the Arc de Triomphe monument to disperse protesters demonstrating against COVID-19 restrictions.

They also sprayed demonstrators in a separate march on the other side of the city.

Paris police intercepted at least 500 vehicles attempting to enter the French capital, in defiance of a police order, to take part in protests inspired by Canada’s “Freedom Convoy”.

Protesters seen dismantling main encampment: Reporter

Jacob Lorinc, reporter for the Toronto Star daily newspaper has said on Twitter that protesters have begun dismantling their main encampment.

There are some 40 protesters remaining at the site, along with “three long-haul trucks blocking the entrance and about a dozen pickup trucks,” he wrote.

“There are two snipers on the roof of the border customs building,” Lorinc said.

‘Blockades must stop’: Minister

Federal Innovation Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne has said that the “illegal blockades are impacting trade, supply chains & manufacturing.

“They’re hurting Canadian families, workers & businesses,” he wrote on Twitter.

“Glad to see the Windsor Police & its policing partners commenced enforcement at and near the Ambassador Bridge. These blockades must stop.”

Windsor police starting ‘enforcement’

The Windsor police say an operation has begun with its “policing partners” to remove demonstrators at the Ambassador Bridge.

“We urge all demonstrators to act lawfully & peacefully,” it said. “Commuters are still being asked to avoid the areas affected by the demonstrations at this time.”

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies