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Protest against COVID mandates roils Ottawa despite officials' plea for it to end

Protesters who have descended on Ottawa, Canada, say they have no plans to leave despite pleas from public officials to move on after several days of major demonstrations in the country's capital city.

The so-called "Freedom Convoy" was originally set up to oppose the federal government's vaccine mandate for cross-border truck drivers but has since evolved into a broader protest against COVID-19 public health measures, the CBC reported.

Media reports and social media posts indicate that thousands of people — including many truckers driving their rigs — were clogging downtown roads and making noise throughout the weekend in the city of more than 1 million residents.

"Quite frankly, [residents] feel they're prisoners in their own home. And so my hope is that at some point, the police reach the conclusion that it's time to have a serious discussion about moving these people on," Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson told the CBC. "You have the right to protest, you've had your protest, please move on. Our city has to get back in normal stead."

The Ottawa Police Service on Sunday urged residents to avoid traveling to the city's core on Monday and said it was costing the department around $800,000 per day to staff the protests.

"Police have avoided ticketing and towing vehicle[s] so as not to instigate confrontations with demonstrators. Still, confrontations and the need for de-escalation has regularly been required," the department said in a press release.

The largely peaceful demonstrations have produced several incidents inciting the ire of public officials and others, including video showing a protester dancing on Canada's Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and another report that protesters harassed staff at a homeless shelter. Police say they've opened several criminal investigations.

This story originally appeared on the Morning Edition live blog.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Joe Hernandez
[Copyright 2024 NPR]