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.
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.
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.”
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.
“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