The Joe Biden administration is working with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government “to end the blockade” of truckers protesting COVID-19 mandates, the White House announced Sunday.
National Security Adviser Dr. Liz Sherwood-Randall released a statement Sunday afternoon saying she, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Majorcas and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg had been in conversations with their counterparts in Ottawa as the “Convoy” demonstrations freedom” continues to wreak havoc. Trade between the US and Canada and traffic blockage there, as well as through other Canadian cities and key border crossings.
At one of those crossings, the Ambassador Bridge, hours earlier, police had begun arresting truckers blocking a checkpoint linking Detroit, Michigan, with Windsor, Ontario.
The clash came after Biden and Trudeau spoke via video conference call on Friday to discuss the situation.
“We are working closely with our Canadian counterparts to end the blockade of key bridges and crossings between the United States and Canada and restore vital trade between our two countries,” Sherwood-Randall said.
She and Canadian National Security and Intelligence Adviser Jody Thomas on Friday evening “discussed the wide-ranging devastating impact that obstacles have already had on the lives and livelihoods of people in both of our countries, and the need to take swift and decisive action and contain future blockades.”
Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Majorcas (left) and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg (right) spoke with their Canadian counterparts to discuss the ongoing “Freedom Convoy” demonstrations and their economic damage, the White House said Sunday.
“This morning, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Majorcas and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg also spoke with their Canadian counterparts,” the official said.
“The updates they have received show that most of the protesters have left the Ambassador Bridge, the barriers have been removed and the corridor is secured.”
The key crossing will be reopened as early as Sunday, Sherwood-Randall said, and that anyone who violates the bridge will be held accountable and their vehicles will be towed.
“Canadian authorities intend to reopen the Ambassador Bridge today after completing the necessary security checks. We stand ready to support our Canadian partners wherever needed to ensure the normal free flow of trade resumes,” Biden’s adviser said.
She added that White House officials are also in touch with Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer after Ford Motors and Toyota factories, which provide thousands of jobs in the state, were forced to shut down operations due to demonstrations.
Windsor Police Constable Talya Natyshak defended her department’s actions on the Ambassador Bridge, arguing that they “respected the protesters’ freedom of expression and their right to peaceful assembly” for several days.
Windsor, Ontario police, on Sunday morning began arresting truckers blocking the Ambassador Bridge, which connects Canada to Detroit.
The White House said the bridge was guarded by law enforcement and would open later Sunday.
Canadian officials told Mallorcas and Buttigieg that “most of the protesters have left the Ambassador Bridge, the barriers are being removed and the corridor is being secured.”
Several vehicles were also towed, the White House said, although no further details were given.
“On Sunday, February 13, 2022, the police at the scene of the demonstration engaged the protesters in order to continue law enforcement, and several arrests were made. All the detainees were charged with hooliganism,” Natyshak said in a statement.
She added that “several vehicles in the demonstration area were also confiscated,” but did not specify which ones.
“You will see a constant police presence in the area to keep the environment safe. In an effort to work towards the resumption of traffic flow, continuous assessment of the situation is vital to ensure a reliable solution.”
Hundreds of uniformed police officers were on the bridge Sunday morning, warning truckers that they could be charged with criminal disorderly conduct, according to The New York Times.
The officers were accompanied by a tow truck, which was used to move two pickup trucks that blocked their path to the protesters.
On Saturday, police persuaded some demonstrators to remove the trucks they were using to block entry to a busy international crossing.
However, many returned on Saturday evening.
Kentucky Republican Senator Rand Paul even said that he would welcome a similar convoy of truckers in Washington, D.C. and said “it won’t shut down the city because government employees haven’t been coming to work for two years anyway.”
A few days earlier, Kentucky Republican Senator Rand Paul called on truckers to “litter things” in American cities during a recent interview in which he called for a protest similar to Canada’s “freedom convoy” in the US.
“I’m all for it,” Paul told the Daily Signal on Thursday. “Civil disobedience is a time-honored tradition in our country, from slavery to civil rights, whatever one may say. Peaceful protest, litter things, make people think about mandates.”
Paul’s comments in his Thursday interview came just as a Department of Homeland Security bulletin warned that another convoy could disrupt Sunday night’s Super Bowl game in Los Angeles.
But a recent report from the social media tracking company showed that such an event was unlikely as of Saturday.
The bulletin also warned that the convoy could be timed to disrupt a speech by President Joe Biden in Washington, D.C. in early March.
“That would be great, but the point is, it wouldn’t close the city because the public employees didn’t show up for work for two years anyway,” the Kentucky senator said when asked about the possibility.
“I don’t know if this will affect DC. It would be a nice change. Actually we would have some traffic.
He added: “I hope they litter the cities.”
A week-long standoff between police and truckers quickly spread from the capital, Ottawa, to the streets of several Canadian cities, as well as key border crossings.
Drivers are honking and using their trucks to block traffic in response to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s demand that truckers crossing the border from the US are either fully vaccinated or subject to quarantine requirements.
Some even stepped up their rhetoric, calling on the liberal prime minister to step down altogether.
Supporters and truckers in front of Parliament Hill during a protest in downtown Ottawa, Canada on February 12. A firm that monitors real-world threats online said such a protest was unlikely to derail the Super Bowl after DHS warned it was possible.
But while Ottawa-inspired protests and blockades of the movement have gained momentum in Australia, New Zealand and Europe, similar rallies in the United States have progressed more slowly, despite much chatter in extremist circles online.
On Friday, US organizers, including Penny Faye of an organization dubbed the Save America Convoy, told Reuters they plan to send the convoys this weekend or early next month.
But a report from Pyrra, a Washington-based firm that monitors potential real-world threats through social media activity, showed there was little sign of anything happening in Los Angeles at Super Bowl Sunday.
“I think they ran out of time,” Pyrra chief Welton Chang said Saturday.
He also cited a lack of consensus as to whether the big game was a suitable target.
Protesters against the introduction of the Covid-19 vaccine block the entrance to the Ambassador Bridge in Windsor, Ontario, Canada on February 12. On Sunday, police began arresting and dispersing protesters.
A Reuters survey of social media also found no support for the Super Bowl plan.
For example, on TruckersForFreedom, the popular Telegram channel dedicated to news of protests in Canada and abroad, there was little mention of the protest.
A partner channel purportedly dedicated to the Super Bowl has just conducted a one-to-one survey of members on whether they plan to participate in the Super Bowl protest.
The vast majority of the 8,000 users who voted said they would not be able to attend.
Meanwhile, the ongoing protest in Canada continues despite Trudeau and other elected officials repeatedly urging drivers to disperse.