A trucker-led protest of coronavirus vaccine mandates that is blocking traffic at a key bridge linking the United States and Canada picked up urgency as it threatens to dampen business activity in both countries.
The protesters, who are demanding an end to Canada’s coronavirus restrictions, have blockaded the Ambassador Bridge between Detroit, Michigan, in the U.S. and Windsor, Ontario, Canada, bringing central Ottawa to a halt. The blockade prevented traffic from entering Canada Wednesday, but U.S.-bound traffic continued.
Trucks transport about 25% of all trade between the two countries across the bridge, much of which is linked to the automobile sector.
Canadian authorities have said they are increasingly concerned about the economic effects of the protest, which is inspiring similar protests in France, Australia and New Zealand.
“Blockages, illegal demonstrations are unacceptable, and are negatively impacting businesses and manufacturers,” Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau warned as he addressed the House of Commons Wednesday.
While the mayor of Canada’s capital city, Ottawa, declared a state of emergency Wednesday because of demonstrations there, police warned in a statement that protesters “must immediately cease further unlawful activity or you may face charges.”
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Wednesday the Biden administration was in close contact with Canadian officials and voiced concern the blockade could also affect the U.S. economy as it “poses a risk to supply chains, to the auto industry.”
Ford Motor Company spokesman Said Deep said Thursday the blockade has forced the automaker to reduce operations at its Ontario province plants in Oakville and Windsor, according to The New York Times.
On Wednesday, Toyota spokesman Scott Vazin said the company will not be able to manufacture anything at three Canadian plants for the rest of this week because of the blockade.
Shortages due to the blockade also forced General Motors to cancel the second shift of the day Wednesday at a factory near Lansing, Michigan, in the U.S. GM spokesman Dan Flores said Wednesday the factory was expected to reopen on Thursday.
The blockade, which began nearly two weeks ago, has prompted the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to issue a warning that a convoy of truckers could begin protests as early as this weekend in Los Angeles, California, the site of the National Football League’s Super Bowl, according to multiple reports.
CNN reports that DHS issued a bulletin to U.S. law enforcement agencies informing them the convoy would probably begin protests in California as early as mid-February and make their way across the U.S. to Washington as late as mid-March.
Some information for this report came from Agence France-Presse, The Associated Press, and Reuters.