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Trucks leave the blockade in Coutts, Alta.Gavin John/The Globe and Mail

The last remaining border blockade by protesters opposed to COVID-19 restrictions is expected to be dismantled on Wednesday after demonstrators in Emerson, Man., agreed to leave – bringing an end to a tactic that held up commercial traffic and disrupted travel in several provinces.

The RCMP in Manitoba said protesters at the Emerson crossing were expected to clear the 20 to 30 semis and other vehicles that remained by around noon on Wednesday. The agreement followed several days of negotiations.

Protesters at a major commercial crossing in Coutts, Alta., abandoned their roadblock Monday evening and the last holdouts left Tuesday morning. The Ambassador Bridge between Detroit and Windsor, Ont., reopened Sunday, but only after police arrested roughly two dozen protesters. The Pacific Highway crossing in Surrey, B.C., resumed normal operations on Tuesday after a dozen protesters who were blocking vehicle access were arrested.

RCMP Sergeant Paul Manaigre said the protesters at Emerson are expected to leave on their own.

“We were open and telling them the next steps we were going to start taking if we can’t get this resolved soon, and that would have involved possibly making arrests, seizing vehicles,” he said in an interview. “Giving them notice so that they can make that determination if they want to carry on.”

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Coutts blockade organizer Marco Van Huigenbos speaks about the decision to end the blockade.Gavin John/The Globe and Mail

The protest that has consumed downtown Ottawa, however, continued. Ottawa police chief Peter Sloly resigned Tuesday, after politicians and residents accused him of mishandling the rowdy demonstration that kicked off last month.

In Alberta, where a collection of truckers, farmers and other opponents of public-health measures had blocked the Coutts border crossing intermittently since Jan. 29, protesters gathered for a group photo and sang the national anthem before a string of tractors led their convoy away. The border crossing reopened in both directions soon after.

“We didn’t achieve everything we came for, but we won a lot,” Marco Van Huigenbos, one of the protest leaders, said outside the Smugglers Saloon as the group was packing up. “There’s been some big wins. And what we’ve started, it is going to snowball.”

The semis, farm machinery and passenger vehicles made an orderly exit, honking their horns as they headed north under heavy RCMP presence.

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The end of the blockade came a day after the RCMP revealed that officers had raided two camper trailers and a mobile home in Coutts, seizing a cache of weapons, arresting 11 people and tarnishing the protesters’ claim that they were demonstrating in peace. The raid happened early Monday morning and a 12th person was arrested later that same day. Four people were charged with conspiracy to commit murder, with the others facing various charges tied to weapons and mischief.

Mr. Van Huigenbos said the protesters decided to leave because they did not want their message tainted by the arrests. The RCMP said the arrests involved a small, organized group who joined the Coutts protest shortly after it started, but were not part of the original demonstrators.

“Rolling out of here, on our terms, peacefully, is a win. And I feel great about that,” Mr. Van Huigenbos said.

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Blockade protestors clean up the area around Smugglers Saloon prior to concluding the protest.Gavin John/The Globe and Mail

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau invoked the Emergencies Act on Monday, making it easier to target protesters’ bank accounts, vehicles and businesses. Mr. Van Huigenbos said that did not influence the group’s decision to call it quits.

The convoy in Coutts departed at 9:50 a.m. and had cleared out about 20 minutes later. A second protest site at a police barricade north of Coutts was still being dismantled Tuesday afternoon.

Coutts Mayor Jim Willett said he was pleased to see the convoy’s taillights head north.

Mr. Willett said the 18-day protest caused rifts among the village’s 250 residents. Last week’s council meeting, he said, became heated and some residents have told him they are going to move away.

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Supporters cheer, salute, and wave at protestors leaving the blockade in Coutts.Gavin John/The Globe and Mail

“It is going to take a while for relations between the two sides to get back to normal,” Mr. Willett said. “But it is a small town and it was kind of a family feel before and hopefully family feuds will end.”

Fred VanHerk, a feedlot operator from Fort Macleod, Alta., said the protesters in Coutts realized they started a movement that extends beyond ending COVID-19 mandates.

“We’ve come to see that the people have no voice and we will continue to be put under constant tyranny if we don’t stand up and take back what is rightfully ours,” he said in Coutts while standing between his two idling Kenworth semis, one silver and the other baby blue.

With files from Gavin John

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