Mayor of Canada-US border town says protesters could be forcibly removed

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  • Disruptions force US automakers to scale back operations
  • Bridge closure has governments scrambling to find alternative routes

WINDSOR/WASHINGTON, Feb 10 (Reuters) – A Canadian mayor said on Thursday police were ready to physically evict anti-coronavirus mandate protesters who blocked a vital trade route between the United States and Canada and forced the American automakers to scale back their operations.

The closure of the Ambassador Bridge, one of North America’s busiest border crossings and a supply route for Detroit automakers, is forcing U.S. and Canadian officials to find alternative trade routes to limit any economic damage .

Canadian truckers began the protests as a “freedom convoy” occupying the capital, Ottawa, opposing a vaccination or quarantine mandate for cross-border drivers mirrored by the US government. They began blocking the Ambassador Bridge on Monday and have since closed two smaller border crossings.

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Canadian federal ministers called the blockade illegal and told protesters to go home. Police near the Ambassador Bridge have started receiving additional manpower, Drew Dilkens, mayor of Windsor, Ont., which borders Detroit, told CNN.

“(If) the protesters don’t leave, there will have to be a way forward. If that means physically removing them, it means physically removing them, and we are prepared to do that,” Dilkens said.

Ottawa police are promising tougher action to end protests that have taken over downtown Main Street which runs past Parliament, the Bank of Canada and the Prime Minister’s Office.

With traffic sometimes closed in both directions, General Motors Co (GM.N) and Chrysler-parent Stellantis (STLA.MI) said Thursday they had to cancel or reduce shifts due to parts shortages, s building on earlier reductions announced by Ford. Motor Co (FN) and Toyota Motor Corp. (7203.T)

The Ambassador Bridge was completely closed in both directions on Thursday at 12:00 p.m. EST (1700 GMT), according to a Reuters witness.

DIVERSION OF CARGO

The protests have caused a standoff in Ottawa for nearly two weeks. Similar protests have also erupted in Australia, New Zealand and France as the highly infectious Omicron variant of the coronavirus begins to subside in some places. Read more

Asked about the protests, White House economic adviser Brian Deese told MSNBC that US President Joe Biden’s administration was “working in real time to divert goods – it’s an imperfect solution – either by way of iron, either by other bridges or by water”.

Deese said that while Washington supports legitimate and peaceful protests, “taking actions like this that only hurt the economy, hurt families who are just trying to make a living… really doesn’t make sense.” .

More than two-thirds of the $511 billion in goods traded annually between Canada and the United States are transported by road. Protesters blocked a second crossing into the province of Alberta late Tuesday and a third crossing between the province of Manitoba and North Dakota on Thursday.

“There’s no question that (Manitoba’s economy) is vulnerable,” Manitoba Chamber of Commerce CEO Chuck Davidson said of the crossing, a major conduit for piglets heading by truck. to American farms and American feed moving north.

“It would be important if there was a duration of closure.”

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Reporting by Carlos Osorio in Windsor, Chris Gallagher and David Shepardson in Washington, Rod Nickel in Manitoba, Ismail Shakil in Bengarulu; written by Rami Ayyub; Editing by Richard Chang, Mark Porter and Grant McCool

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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