(CNN)Windsor Police have started arresting protesters who have blocked the Ambassador Bridge linking the US and Canada — a standoff that has snarled traffic and crippled a key trade route for both countries.
“Enforcement actions continue at the demonstration area with arrests being made,” Windsor Police tweeted Sunday morning. “Vehicles being towed. Please continue avoiding the area.”
The Ambassador Bridge, which spans the border between Detroit and Windsor, Ontario, is the busiest border crossing in North America.
A judge ordered protesters to leave the Ambassador Bridge by 7 p.m. Friday, and some protesters moved away on their own as police approached Saturday morning.
But some pedestrians stayed put near an intersection on a road leading to the bridge later Saturday, including some talking to or yelling at a line of standing police officers. Others sang the Canadian national anthem or shouted, “Freedom!”
But Canada-bound traffic at the bridge was still suspended early Sunday, according to a Canadian website tracking traffic at border crossings. US-bound traffic was open, according to the US Customs and Border Protection website.
The protests were sparked by truckers who oppose Canada’s new rule requiring them to be fully vaccinated when crossing the Canadian-US border or face a two-week quarantine.
Their “Freedom Convoy” has since drawn supporters resisting other Covid-19 prevention measures, including mask mandates, lockdowns and restrictions on gatherings.
And for two weeks, they’ve blockaded the downtown core of Ottawa, Canada’s capital — including at its main airport — prompting a judge there to rule they must stop honking.
Canada has one of the highest vaccination rates in the world, with about 4 in every 5 Canadians fully vaccinated, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. And nearly 90% of the country’s truckers are fully vaccinated and eligible to cross the border, according to the Canadian government.
Still, the protesters have been vocal and used their truck horns to express their opposition, prompting a judge in Ottawa to rule Monday they must stop honking for 10 days.
Protesters have also used semitrailers — and sometimes farm equipment and other vehicles — to block crossings between Emerson, Manitoba, and Pembina, North Dakota, as well as at the Coutts access point between Alberta and Montana.
And about 50 vehicles have blocked access to the Canadian-US border at Emerson since Thursday, the Manitoba Royal Canadian Mounted Police said Saturday.
The blockade has alarmed political leaders, including in the US.
“We are at an economic crisis because of this illegal blockade,” which is becoming a homeland security issue, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer told CNN Friday.
Canadian officials discuss additional response
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and other government officials were briefed on the law enforcement action in Windsor Saturday, a statement from his office said.
“The Prime Minister stressed border crossings cannot, and will not, remain closed, and all options remain on the table,” the statement said.
The ministers also discussed “further immediate actions the federal government is considering” and will meet again Sunday.
Additionally, the statement said the Ontario Provincial Police, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the Ottawa Police Service established an Integrated Command Centre (ICC) to address the escalating tensions in Ottawa, where more than 4,000 demonstrators were present throughout Saturday, police said in a news release.
“Safety concerns – arising from aggressive, illegal behaviour by many demonstrators – limited police enforcement capabilities,” the Ottawa Police Service said. “We expect that the ICC will result in a significantly enhanced ability of our police service to respond to the current situation in our city.”
Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson told CNN he expected even more protests as the weekend unfolds.
“It’s completely unacceptable,” Watson said. “Particularly in the neighborhoods where some of the protesters are going into restaurants and refusing to wear a mask and harassing staff and really being belligerent to the residents of our city.”
Officials in US ‘ready’ if similar protests break out
Meanwhile in the US, officials are gearing up to potentially face similar protests, including one possibly affecting the Super Bowl in southern California Sunday.
“The convoy will potentially begin in California as early as mid-February and arrive in Washington, DC, as late as mid-March, potentially impacting the Super Bowl LVI scheduled for 13 February and the State of the Union Address scheduled for 1 March,” a bulletin from the Department of Homeland Security said.
In addition, a group in the US said it is organizing two trucker convoys that will head to the US-Canadian border in Buffalo, New York, this weekend.
However, the city said Friday no group had applied for permits to hold events.
“Nor have the organizers contacted our Special Events Office to arrange for the appropriate insurance and public safety planning that is required for all events in the City to ensure the health and safety of residents and visitors,” Buffalo city spokesperson Michael DeGeorge told CNN. “It is always a concern when laws that are designed to keep people and property protected are willfully ignored.”
“We’re ready for these trucks,” Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown said Saturday, “but our goal is to keep our roadways open and to make sure that residents and visitors are safe and healthy.”
CNN’s Ray Sanchez, Miguel Marquez and Kim Berryman reported from Windsor. Chuck Johnson, Paula Newton, Paradise Afshar, Chris Isidore, Lucy Kafanov and Geneva Sands contributed to this report.