Paris and Brussels are preparing themselves for large protests against Covid-19 restrictions, similar to those taking place in Canada.
Hundreds of motorists descended on Paris on Friday afternoon and night and promised to carry out protests over the weekend despite the threat of harsh punishments for violating a ban on road blockades announced a day earlier by Paris police.
The protest which has been dubbed “Freedom Convoy” plans to continue onto Brussels on Monday to protest restrictions imposed by European nations such as vaccine mandates and health passes.
Frustrations are building in Europe, and demands for a return to pre-pandemic normalcy are increasing. “I’m in a free country. I was born free and I want to remain free,” a French man who joined the convoy told France 24, a French public broadcaster.
Unlike the protests in Canada, the French demonstrations appeared to be made up mostly of motorcycles, campers and cars. A few trucks and farm tractors, though, were seen in videos posted on social media and in news clips.
The protests could pose a political risk for French President Emmanuel Macron, who is facing reelection in April. Macron’s main challengers are to his political right and have pushed for loosening coronavirus restrictions.
Many of those descending on Paris said they had supported the yellow vest movement in 2018, which were a series of protests, many of them turning violent, against Macron and his reform agenda
“We demonstrated every Saturday but evidently those protests didn’t change much,” a woman who took part in the yellow vest protests told France 24. “Now there’s this idea of a convoy like in Canada, so we’re going to try that. Maybe that can work.”
Videos on social media showed motorists rallying on highways and in parking lots on their way to Paris honking, blowing horns, waving French flags and shouting “liberté!”