It’s now been more than a year since many Western New Yorkers have been able to cross the bridge into Canada and see their loved ones.

“We need our families, we need our loved ones," says protester Marcella Picone. "We’re really going through this pandemic. You need that support during this time." 

Her fiancé lives in Canada. She was one of the Western New Yorkers rallying Sunday afternoon at Sole Park, near the Peace Bridge. The group, Families are Essential, is made up of families who have been separated because of the U.S. and Canadian COVID-19 border closure. They’re asking that people with loved ones across the border be able to drive over without quarantining or COVID testing. 

“I’m here to protest the border to be open to show the world that I love Tammy,” says protester Merton LaBounty. “I moved here. I sold everything I had in Lake George and moved here two years ago to start a life with Tammy.”

Tammy is Merton LaBounty’s girlfriend. She lives just over the border in Canada. Though they are only a 25-minute drive apart, they haven’t been able to see each other in person since August. 

“It’s been an emotional roller coaster this whole year for both of us,” says LaBounty. “She flew over here. It cost us a lot of money and the she had to go back and quarantine for two weeks. It’s just very hard for her in her profession to take a whole month off to get through that,"

Groups were demonstrating on both sides of the Peach Bridge Sunday afternoon, here in Western New York and also in Canada. They are hoping that one day soon they will be able to reunite in person.

Congressman Brian Higgins says he’s hoping to see the border partially reopen by Memorial Day.