By Joseph Ataman, Lianne Kolirin, Mick Krever and Aliza Kassim Khalidi, CNN
Following the “Freedom Convoy” in Canada — which has seen truckers protesting against vaccine mandates, Covid-19 restrictions and the Liberal government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau — demonstrators in France have launched a similar initiative against the country’s vaccine pass, according to CNN affiliate BFMTV.
One convoy of around 100 people left Nice on Wednesday morning bound for Paris, according to BFMTV.
A map from the French convoy organizers shows protesters coming from across the country along five main routes toward the city. It also highlights the demonstrators’ plans to then drive north to Brussels, Belgium’s capital. The convoys are due to reach Paris between February 11 and 14.
On Thursday, Paris police announced restrictions on protests in the city from Friday to Monday, “due to the risk of public order offenses which could stem from this gathering.” The convoys had the objective of “blocking off the capital.”
The mayor of Brussels also banned the convoy from entering the Belgian capital the same day.
Philippe Close said that in conjunction with the Belgian Minister of the Interior and the Minister-President of the Brussels Capital Region, the city made the decision to deny admission to the convoy “because there was no application” for the protest.
In a tweet, he wrote: “Resources are being put in place to prevent the blockage of the Brussels Capital Region.
“The police zones, with the help of the federal police, will divert motor vehicles coming to the capital despite the ban.”
“This cooperation between the three levels of government aims to influence public order in the capital as little as possible,” Close added.
Canada’s “Freedom Convoy” began at the end of January in Ottawa as an objection to a vaccine mandate requiring truckers entering the country to either be fully vaccinated or face testing and quarantine requirements. Other protesters then joined to rail against mask mandates, lockdowns, restrictions on gatherings and other Covid-19 preventative measures.
The protests have been jumped on by the far-right and Covid conspiracists around the world. In the United States, Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene shared her support of the convoy on social media, while anti-vaccine mandate activists have created Facebook and Telegram groups to also organize a descent on Washington DC.
A Facebook page linked to the protests in France said the event was for “liberty” and “fundamental rights” and to “stop the sacrifice of our children and youth.” Posts from the page also repeatedly used the French hashtag “#findesrestrictions,” meaning “end of restrictions.”
On Wednesday, French European Affairs Minister Clément Beaune slammed the protesters as anti-vaccine conspiracy theorists, saying in an interview with French broadcaster LCI that “it is a bit paradoxical to pretend to be for freedom when the project is to block people’s lives.”
“Let’s not twist words here, it’s not the ‘Convoy of Liberty’ that we see here, it’s the convoy of shame and selfishness. These are not patriots, they’re irresponsible,” he said.
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