Blockage by virus protesters banned in Paris, Brussels

Paris — On Thursday, French and Belgian authorities banned road blockages threatened by groups organizing online against COVID-19 restrictions, partly inspired by Canadian protesters.

The police station in Paris has banned protests aimed at “blocking the capital” from Friday to Monday because of “risks against public order and morals.” Police will protect the road and take steps to detain the offender.

Police said in a statement that blocking traffic could lead to two years in prison, a fine of € 4,500 (over $ 5,000) and a suspension of a driver’s license.

The French online chat group wants drivers to gather in Paris from Friday night and head north to Brussels on Monday. Belgium calls for action to bring truck drivers together in the capital that houses the European Union’s institutions.

Belgian officials said they would ban the threatened blockade on Monday and set wide boundaries around 1.1 million cities to keep excess trucks out of central Brussels.

Philippe Close, Mayor of the City of Brussels, said in a Twitter message that authorities had decided to ban “Freedom Convoy” protests because the organizers did not ask for permission to hold the event.

A similar Freedom Convoy is planned for Friday in Vienna.

The protest will reflect the protest of a Canadian truck driver who closed the border crossing.

In France, a small group of drivers departed Wednesday from Bayonne on the Atlantic coast and Nice on the French Riviera, with a sticker on the car stating “Freedom Convoy”.

Protesters are preparing to leave for Paris on February 9, 2022 in Bayonne, southwestern France. (Bob Edme / AP Photo)

Departures have also been reported or planned in about 12 other cities, and the group gathered in Paris on Friday night and called for protests there on Saturday.

People trying to join the convoy appear to represent a variety of causes and vehicles, from trucks to motorcycles and campers.

France Bleu Radio in the southern region of Vaucluse said the head of the shipping company said he and his three employees would gather in Paris in separate vehicles. “It’s a really peaceful convoy,” quoted a man identified only as Sylvain, as France Bleu said.

“The idea is to see and hear yourself. We need to end this health pass,” he said, referring to the COVID-19 pass that France needs to enter restaurants and other public places. He pointed out that the presidential election will be held within two months.

In France, weekly protests against vaccine rules and virus-related restrictions have been seen for several months. Convoy attempts arise due to the recent decline in participation in protests. The French convoy does not appear to have a single organizer or rally scream.

French protesters are sharing images of Canadian truck drivers. They hope to put an end to Canada’s COVID-19 restrictions, including the rule that all truck drivers entering Canada will be fully vaccinated.

Some are calling for rallies elsewhere in Europe, but it is not clear whether different behaviors in different countries are being coordinated.

Several Spanish telegram groups are calling for rallies and trying to organize logistics and food donations.

Associated Press


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