EMERSON, Man. — Protesters blocking a busy United States border crossing in southern Manitoba packed up and left Wednesday.
RCMP say they had worked out a deal with demonstrators to end the blockade at the Emerson border crossing and it was open to traffic again.
The crossing had been blocked since Feb. 10 when protesters parked farm equipment, semi-trailers and other vehicles about two kilometres north of the border.
“Throughout the past six days, our officers were able to use open communication and a measured and tempered response. This continuous dialogue between our officers and the demonstrators enabled us to reach a resolution,” Sgt. Paul Manaigre said during a news conference.
The blockade was in solidarity with similar protests in Ottawa and across the country demanding an end to COVID-19 vaccine mandates and other pandemic restrictions.
Emerson was the last remaining border blockade. Similar ones near Coutts, Alta., Surrey, B.C., and Windsor, Ont., were dismantled in recent days. The clearing of those blockades resulted in dozens of arrests.
RCMP in Alberta charged 13 people with various offences from the Coutts border blockade protest. Four of those individuals are charged with conspiracy to murder RCMP officers.
Officers said there was organized criminal activity happening at the blockade after they seized a cache of firearms and ammunition early Monday.
Police in Manitoba had a plan in case things escalated with protesters near Emerson, but Manaigre said officers told those involved they wouldn’t make arrests if everyone left peacefully.
“They wanted to get their message across, which I believe they have, and we wanted to make sure they understood where we were coming (from),” he said.
“At some point enforcement might have been needed.”
Mounties estimated there were up to 75 vehicles involved in the Emerson blockade at its height.
Protesters did allow emergency vehicles, including police vehicles, and agriculture transport trucks to pass through.
Manaigre said officers were able to divert traffic that couldn’t get through to alternate border crossings.
Some involved in the blockade had already left Tuesday. Officers escorted out the remaining vehicles Wednesday “to ensure a safe and orderly departure,” he said.
Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino said Wednesday he was happy to hear that the border blockades had been cleared.
“This means that Alberta beef, B.C. salmon and Manitoba pork can once again be exported to markets across North America.”
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau invoked the Emergencies Act earlier this week to help quash what he called illegal blockades at various border crossings.
Manitoba Premier Heather Stefanson was not in favour of using the federal legislation in the province. She said local law enforcement was equipped to handle protests.
Manaigre said the legislation didn’t affect the way police handled discussions with protesters at Emerson.
“We had all the equipment, all the personnel needed. We kept going the way we were doing it and it worked for us,” he said.
“It’s resolved perfectly.”
No arrests were made or tickets issued during the blockade and nothing was seized.
“The outcome is what we wanted. No one got hurt. We have a highway that’s going to open and trade can resume at this point.”
Canada Border Services said in a statement Wednesday that operations have resumed at the Emerson crossing.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 16, 2022.
— By Brittany Hobson in Winnipeg
This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship
The Canadian Press