Video above shows French police firing gas into crowds gathered at the Place D’italie in Paris on Saturday, February 12, during blockade protests inspired by Canada’s ‘freedom convoys’. (Credit: @CharliB97783485 via Storyful)
PARIS (AP) — Paris police fired tear gas Saturday against a handful of demonstrators on the Champs Elysees Avenue who defied a police order by taking part in a vehicle protest against virus restrictions inspired by Canada’s horn-honking “Freedom Convoy.”
Police set up checkpoints into the French capital on key roads and said they successfully stopped at least 500 vehicles from heading to the banned protest but a few dozen vehicles were able to slip in and disrupt traffic.
Authorities fired tear gas as they demanded that the demonstrators disperse, some of whom climbed onto their vehicles in the middle of the road to create chaos.
Police handed out 300 tickets to motorists involved in the protest. Elsewhere, several protesters were detained amid a seizure of knives, hammers and other objects in a central Parisian square.
Railing against the vaccination pass that France requires for people to enter restaurants and many other venues, protesters tried to weave toward Paris from the north, south, east and west, waving and honking at onlookers as they drove by. Some convoys sought to avoid police detection by traveling on local roads instead of the major highways leading into the capital.
Waving French flags and shouting “Freedom!” the protesters organized online, galvanized in part by truckers who have blockaded the center of Ottawa, Canada’s capital, and blocked border crossings to the U.S.
The French vehicle protest comes as months of demonstrations against French government vaccination rules have been waning.
To the north in the Netherlands, dozens of trucks and other vehicles — ranging from tractors to a car towing a camping ban — arrived in The Hague to protest Saturday, blocking an entrance to the historic parliamentary complex.
Protesters on foot joined the truckers, carrying a banner emblazoned with the Dutch words “Love & freedom, no dictatorship.”
Police urged the protesters to move to a nearby park and warned the public about traffic problems.
‘Freedom (or Liberty) Convoy’ protests, including those in Canada and France, took place in recent days.
Police arrested dozens of protesters camping on the grounds of New Zealand’s Parliament on the third day of a protest against coronavirus mandates. Among the protesters’ grievances are vaccine requirements for certain workers and mask mandates such as those in stores and schools.
Police in Vienna, Austria placed a ban on any ‘Freedom Convoy’ protests inspired by the movement launched in Canada against COVID restrictions.