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Bridge to Canada in Detroit closes as Canadian protesters block the trade route

·3 min read

An ongoing protest in Canada over COVID-19 vaccine mandates spilled over into Detroit Monday evening via the Ambassador Bridge.

The protesters blocked traffic on the largest international suspension bridge and prevented motorists from passing, with signs calling for an end to the mandates.

The bridge to Canada in Detroit has been closed, according to the Michigan Department of Transportation, and motorists should use the tunnel rather than the bridge, or head to the Blue Water Bridge that goes from Port Huron to Sarnia, Ontario.

In Canada, the Huron Church Road exit was "temporarily interrupted" by the demonstration, and the Windsor Police Department asked residents and travelers to avoid the area.

Gregg Ward, president of Detroit-Windsor Truck Ferry, has been in the border-crossing business for 30 years. He said the bridge closing is unprecedented.

He said the last time he can remember it fully shut down over a demonstration was in 1990 for the independent truckers protest.

The bridge is used to transport goods for trade, and businesses often rely on getting their deliveries on time, he said. Now, those businesses, especially in the auto industry, won't get their supplies when they need them.

"They usually get (their goods) just on time. It all depends on how much inventory they had, and if they anticipated this," Ward said. "I know there was an expected slowdown, I would bet most people didn't think there would be a complete closure."

In terms of truck drivers themselves, Ward said going up to Port Huron and around that way increases the driving time, which raises questions about how many hours they work.

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This came one day after Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson declared a state of emergency after a 10-day demonstration by truckers protesting the vaccine mandate, Reuters reported.

"(This) reflects the serious danger and threat to the safety and security of residents posed by the ongoing demonstrations and highlights the need for support from other jurisdictions and levels of government," Watson said in a statement.

Ward said he understands people have the right to protest issues they disagree with, but blocking an international border negatively impacts residents and businesses.

"I understand there are grievances, but you know, it's how you express those grievances and resolve those grievances that's important," he said. "And blocking international trade may be effective for getting attention, but I don't think it's an effective method to resolve issues."

Contact Emma Stein: estein@freepress.com and follow her on Twitter @_emmastein.

This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Protesters in Canada block Ambassador Bridge