Thousands of cops deployed in Paris to block COVID convoys

Thousands of cops were deployed in Paris on Friday to try to prevent convoys like those in Canada from forming – as protests over COVID-19 restrictions spread around the world.

Authorities in and around the French capital have posted more than 7,000 officers at toll booths and other key transport sites to try to stop scattered convoys of vans, cars and trucks heading into the city, despite a ban issued a day earlier.

Citing “risks of disturbing public order”, the Paris police banned demonstrations from Friday to Monday. Violators who block traffic can face up to two years in prison, more than $5,000 in fines and a suspended license, officials said.

But focus groups across France had called on drivers to get off in Paris from Friday evening and continue on Monday to Brussels, Belgium, where truckers from other European countries could converge.

Participants of the Freedom Convoy pose with a Canadian flag during a stopover in Le Mans, France, February 11, 2022.
AFP via Getty Images
Attendees of the
Freedom Convoy participants gather in front of the Canadian Vimy Memorial in France.
AFP via Getty Images
Police cars precede a convoy heading for Paris on February 11, 2022.
Police cars precede a convoy heading for Paris on February 11, 2022.
PA

Belgian authorities issued a similar ban on Thursday, saying a perimeter would be set up around Brussels to prevent trucks and other vehicles from entering.

“We’ve been going around in circles for three years,” protests Jean-Marie Azais, who was going to Paris, told the Guardian. “We saw the Canadians and we thought, ‘It’s great what they’re doing.’ In eight days, boom, something happened.

Canada’s capital, Ottawa, has been crippled by protest convoys since late last month, prompting authorities there on Wednesday to warn that protesters could be arrested without a warrant if they continue.

Protesters gather in Strasbourg for a convoy before heading to Paris.
Protesters gather in Strasbourg for a convoy before heading to Paris.
PA
Demonstrators stopped at Le Mans.
Protesters hold firm in Le Mans, France.
AFP via Getty Images

A protester in Lille, France, said he was not angry with his country’s anti-virus protocols, including a vaccination pass needed to enter many places, but joined a convoy local to express their displeasure against President Emmanuel Macron, the Associated Press reported.

Others in France praised the convoys, saying cops would not be able to handle the crushing of vehicles heading for Paris.

“The authorities cannot block everyone,” a woman encouraging motorists in Toulouse told the Guardian. “The convoys must force, they must still try to enter.”

Supporters hold a banner as they cheer on French anti-COVID restriction protesters.
Supporters hold a banner as they cheer on French anti-COVID restriction protesters.
Reuters
A man sticks a sticker on the windscreen of his car as participants in the freedom convoy gather in Strasbourg.
A man sticks a sticker on his car as Freedom Convoy participants gather in Strasbourg, France.
AFP via Getty Images

Paris-bound protesters hoped to avoid detection by cops by taking local roads, but it’s unclear whether they will be able to enter the capital, according to AP.

A convoy of around 100 people left Nice early Wednesday for Paris, CNN reported, citing French broadcaster BFM TV.

A Facebook page linked to the protest said it was seeking ‘freedom’ and ‘basic rights’ while calling for an end to virus restrictions. But French Europe Minister Clément Beaune, in an interview on Wednesday, called the protesters anti-vaccine conspiracy theorists, CNN reported.

Protesters hold a sign next to the car as part of the
Protestors demonstrate as part of the Freedom Convoy.
PA
A French activist holds a poster reading
A French activist holds a poster before the departure of the convoy.
Reuters

“It’s a bit paradoxical to pretend to be for freedom when the project is to block people’s lives,” said Beaune.

Another protest planned for Friday inspired by so-called “freedom convoy” protesters in Canada was also due to be held in Vienna, Austria, but was canceled after being banned by authorities.

With post wires

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