**Updated** Halifax police arrest 18 people at site of Macdonald Bridge protest

A few dozen Extinct Rebellion protesters gathered in a parking lot near the Macdonald bridge, before marching to the bridge to begin a demonstration to bring attention to climate change. (Amy Stoodley/CTV Atlantic/Twitter)

More than a dozen people have been arrested at the site of a planned protest that prompted the closure of the Macdonald Bridge, which links Halifax and Dartmouth, Monday morning.

There was a heavy police presence on the Dartmouth side of the bridge for the protest, which forced many commuters to take alternate routes during the morning rush hour.

Members of the Extinction Rebellion previously announced their plans to block access to the bridge during the morning commute in an effort to raise awareness about what they say is a climate crisis.

Dozens of protesters with the group waved flags and signs as they marched from a nearby transit terminal to the Macdonald Bridge toll plaza in Dartmouth, arriving around 7:35 a.m. Monday.

However, the bridge was closed to all traffic, including vehicles, bicycles and pedestrians, just before the protesters arrived, and police blocked their access to the span.

Police say the bridge was closed “in the interest of public safety.”

Just before 11 a.m., Halifax Regional Police gave the protesters 10 minutes to gather their things and leave the premises. Some protesters moved to the sidewalk, but some remained in the bridge lanes.

Police initally said they arrested 14 protesters under the Protection of Property Act for failing to leave the premises after being ordered to do so. They later corrected that number to 18 arrests.

“Halifax Regional Police would like to reiterate that we respect people’s right for peaceful protest, and that public safety has been our top consideration as we planned our response for the Macdonald Bridge protest,” said Halifax Regional Police in a news release.

“Our deployment decisions were made in close consultation with partners, especially the Halifax Harbour Bridges, in the interest of safety of commuters, protestors and members of the public.”

Police did not say whether the protesters who were arrested will face charges.

Several Halifax Transit buses were operating on detours Monday morning due to the bridge closure, with buses that usually travel on the Macdonald Bridge being rerouted to the MacKay Bridge.

The protest and subsequent closure caused congestion on some main arteries throughout the Halifax and Dartmouth areas as motorists were forced to take alternate routes.

The Macdonald Bridge reopened to all traffic before 12:30 p.m.

Roughly 40,000 vehicles use the bridge daily, along with about 1,200 people who bike or walk across the span.

The protest is one of a number of actions happening across the country today.

One of the organizers, Patrick Yancey, has said he's sorry about the inconvenience, but the group has run out of less disruptive methods to bring the issue of climate change forward to the attention of political leaders.

The group usually sits or lies down in front of traffic until they are arrested and taken away by police officers.

With files from CTV Atlantic's Amy Stoodley and The Canadian Press