A man waves a Canadian and American flag at the Ambassador Bridge in Windsor, Ontario. AP
Protesters opposing pandemic restrictions flouted a court order and emergency rules, continuing to occupy a vital Canada-US trade corridor early on Saturday, hours after a judge granted an injunction to end the blockade that has crippled North America's well-knitted auto industry.
With support from ex-police and military intelligence officers, American funding, and stockpiles of food and fuel, "Freedom Convoy" protesters are hunkered down for a long stay in the Canadian capital.
Their numbers have fallen from a peak of almost 15,000 when the truckers first rolled into the capital two weeks ago. At first the goal was to protest Covid restrictions although this has morphed into a broader outcry against the government.
At the Ambassador Bridge, an unidentified person grabbed a microphone and addressed them, asking if they wanted to stay or leave when the deadline rolled around. By a show of applause, it was agreed they would stay. "OK,”’ the man said. "Let’s stand tall.” The protesters responded by singing the Canadian national anthem.
Protesters continue blocking access to the Ambassador Bridge in Windsor, Ontario, Canada. Reuters
The crowd later grew in size and intensity, with flag-waving and frequent chants of "Freedom!” More patrol cars moved in around the site, and police handed out leaflets warning that a state of emergency would come into effect at midnight.
Since Monday, drivers mostly in pickup trucks have bottled up the bridge connecting Windsor to Detroit. Hundreds more truckers have paralysed downtown Ottawa over the past two weeks; it was a party atmosphere there Friday night, when they even set up a concert stage. And protesters have also blocked two other border crossings, in Alberta and Manitoba.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has promised President Joe Biden quick action to end the crisis, and on Friday a Canadian judge ordered an end to the four-day-long blockade of the Ambassador Bridge, North America's busiest land border crossing.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau attends a election meeting. File photo
The order came into effect at 7pm Eastern Time (0000 GMT), but five hours after the deadline, some 100 protesters were milling around the entrance to the bridge, waving Canadian flags.
While the number of protesters and police dropped as the night progressed, demonstrators continued to block the bridge with trucks and pick-up vans, preventing any flow of traffic in either direction.
Earlier, A judge on Friday ordered protesters at the Ambassador Bridge over the US-Canadian border to end the 5-day-old blockade that has disrupted the flow of goods between the two countries and forced the auto industry on both sides to roll back production.
Protesters sing the Canadian national anthem at the Ambassador Bridge in Windsor, Ontario. AFP
It was not immediately clear when or if law enforcement officers would be sent in to remove the demonstrators, who parked their pickups and other vehicles in a bumper-to-bumper protest against the country’s COVID-19 restrictions and an outpouring of fury toward Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his Liberal government.
Chief Justice Geoffrey Morawetz of the Ontario Superior Court said during a virtual hearing that the order would be effective at 7 p.m. to give protesters time to leave.
Windsor police immediately warned that anyone blocking the streets could be subject to arrest and their vehicles may be seized.
The news was met with defiance by protesters.
A man reacts as truckers and supporters continue blocking access to the Ambassador Bridge. Reuters
Protesters sang the Canadian national anthem and midnight, and some shouted "Freedom!"
Police, who started to gather in a parking lot a few blocks away from the protesters, began handing out pamphlets that outlined penalties under Ontario's emergency order, which took effect at midnight.
Trudeau earlier told reporters that no action was off the table.
Companies have diverted cargo to stem losses amid production cuts by companies including Ford.
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