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Canada trucker protest over vaccine mandate continues

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Police in Canada's capital city are asking federal and provincial governments for 1,800 more officers to help control a demonstration that's been going on for more than a week. In Ottawa, hundreds of large trucks and other vehicles have blocked streets in central business and residential districts. The protesters say they won't leave until pandemic-related public health restrictions are ended.

Emma Jacobs is in Ottawa covering the story. Hi there.

EMMA JACOBS, BYLINE: Hi.

SHAPIRO: Tell us what's happening in the streets right now.

JACOBS: So the number of protesters are down from the weekend, but there's still hundreds of vehicles downtown. They're running their engines and honking their horns. Today, a judge actually ordered them to stop the noise. He's granted a 10-day injunction in a class action suit brought by residents of the area, but it's not clear how or if it will be enforced.

All along, police have been saying they want to minimize confrontations with protesters, some of whom are in these really big vehicles. The city says it needs a lot more federal and provincial assistance. The mayor suggested this morning that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau should appoint a mediator to regulate - excuse me - to negotiate an end to this. But federal ministers held a press conference, too, in which they said they were willing to give resources, but this is a local police matter. So there's a sense that different entities are trying to figure out what to do to end this but also that there's still not a consensus what kind of event this is, even among the people taking part as well.

SHAPIRO: And tell us about who those people are. I mean, when you talk to the protesters, who are they?

JACOBS: So I went to the staging site today that's been set up a little outside downtown in a municipal parking lot where they've been storing a lot of donated food and other supplies. And I spoke with a guy named Ken Moore, who said he's supporting the demonstration not because he's opposed to vaccines, which is a little unusual, but because of other public health restrictions. He was upset he couldn't visit his mother recently when she was in the hospital.

KEN MOORE: I'm double vaccinated. I'm not sick. Why shouldn't I be with my mother?

JACOBS: But then there's also really extreme views here. A guy who's part of the self-appointed security monitoring the perimeter of this city lot - he pushed his way into the interview without giving his name and said Canada is in a civil war.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: It's a civil war between the government and its people.

JACOBS: So last night, police confiscated more than 800 gallons of fuel here that the demonstrators have been using to keep the idling vehicles running. This was part of a new police strategy that began Sunday to try and cut some of these supply chains and make this a little less comfortable for the protesters. You have to remember this is Canada in the winter. So it would address that while also...

SHAPIRO: Yeah.

JACOBS: ...The potential safety hazard.

SHAPIRO: People live in this area. What's the impact of the protests been on them?

JACOBS: A lot of people lost a lot of sleep. Some have left their homes. People who have stayed have reported being harassed by convoy supporters, or shop owners have reported being spit on by demonstrators asked to follow mask rules.

SHAPIRO: So where does it go from here?

JACOBS: There's been some uncertainty and some criticism about a lack of leadership from the city and the police and even the federal government. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is at home with COVID, and he's said very little since Thursday. But there is a real reluctance to end this with force, and so it is something of a standoff at the moment.

SHAPIRO: That's Emma Jacobs in Ottawa, Canada. Thank you for your coverage.

JACOBS: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF THE CINEMATIC ORCHESTRA'S "LESSONS") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.