An Ontario judge has extended an order to keep a busy international bridge clear in Windsor, Ont.
Ontario Superior Court Chief Justice Geoffrey Morawetz has granted an extension of an injunction that prohibits blocking access to the Ambassador Bridge after his previous order was set to expire Feb. 21.
Canada-bound traffic was blocked for a week at the bridge that connects Windsor with Detroit by protesters who oppose COVID-19 measures and vaccine mandates.
The city argued there was an imminent threat by protesters to block the bridge again.
"There is a real and present threat that the blockade will return," said Jennifer King, a lawyer representing the city.
Police have been monitoring social media, King said, and pointed to several posts afterward suggesting protesters wanted to take back the bridge.
"Today is not a setback, today is the beginning of a regroup," one post read, according to King.
"The war is far from over" another post read.
She also said police intercepted a small truck convoy some 250 kilometres from Windsor that was purportedly on its way from Ottawa to the Ambassador Bridge.
King argued that the city's own bylaws continue to be breached, thus necessitating an extension of the injunction until the court deems it no longer necessary.
The court order also allows police to remove vehicles and any other object that impedes or blocks access to the Ambassador Bridge.
A lawyer for the protesters, part of a group called the Citizens of Freedom, argued the continuation of the injunction has questionable utility given traffic is flowing to and from the bridge.
"I submit that the risk, if any exists at all, is insignificant and disproportionate to the relief being sought," said lawyer Antoine d'Ailly. "There is certainly no imminent threat."
He said there have been no breaches of the court order since Monday. He said there is a heavy police presence along a five-kilometre stretch of the main road leading to the bridge, coupled with concrete barriers preventing access from side streets that also make the injunction unnecessary.
James Kitchen, another lawyer for the group, argued the court order was overly broad and infringed upon the right to free expression and free assembly. He argued that sidewalks are public and where protesters should be allowed to gather.
Earlier Friday, the city successfully argued to become the lead plaintiff in the case, which was initially brought to court by the Automotive Parts Manufacturers' Association.