North Dakota’s busiest border crossing slowed by protest

February 15, 2022

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — The busiest U.S.-Canada border crossing in North Dakota remained open Monday but continued to be blocked on the Canadian side by demonstrators angry over the country’s COVID-19 restrictions.

Since the protest began Thursday, traffic has slowed from up to 900 trucks daily to near nothing between Emerson, Manitoba, and Pembina, North Dakota, said Christopher Misson, area port director for the U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

Demonstrators, blocking lanes of the highway with semitrailers and farm equipment in Canada, were allowing some trucks hauling livestock to pass through into the U.S., he said. Drivers of a few smaller vehicles also have “somehow found their way around” the blockade, Misson said.

North Dakota has 17 border crossings and the one at Pembina on Interstate 29 in the northeastern part of the state is the busiest. Most drivers and truckers were using other crossings where traffic was not blocked, some as little as 20 to 25 miles away in both North Dakota and Minnesota, he said.

A worker at grocery store in Pembina, a town of about 500 people, declined to give her name but said the protests were having a big impact on the business due to fewer customers.

The busiest and most important — the Ambassador Bridge connecting Windsor, Ontario, to Detroit — was reopened on Sunday after police arrested dozens of demonstrators and broke the nearly week-long siege that had disrupted auto production in both countries.

Misson said except for the slow flow of traffic, “there haven’t been issues on our side.”

Mike Nowatzki, a spokesman for North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum, said the governor has been in contact with Manitoba Premier Heather Stefanson.

Nowatzki said they “agreed to keep lines of communication open and continue to advocate to their respective federal governments to resolve the situation.”