Paris police on Thursday prohibited a French "freedom convoy" of motorists protesting against COVID-19 restrictions, in part inspired by protesters in Canada, from entering the city.
Citing "risks of trouble to public order," the Paris police department banned protests aimed at "blocking the capital” from Friday through Monday. Police will impose measures to protect roads and detain violators.
Blocking traffic can lead to two years in prison, 4,500 euros (more than $5,000) in fines and a suspended driver's license, the police department said in a statement.
Protesters set out from southern France on Wednesday in what they call a "freedom convoy" that will converge on Paris and Brussels to demand an end to COVID-19 restrictions, inspired by demonstrators who have gridlocked the Canadian capital Ottawa. Online chat groups in France have been calling for drivers to converge in Paris starting Friday night and ride to the European Union's capital in Brussels on Monday. Small groups of drivers set out Wednesday from Bayonne on France’s Atlantic coast and Nice on the French Riviera, with stickers on their cars reading "Freedom Convoy." Departures were also reported in other cities.
France has seen weekly protests against vaccine rules and virus-related restrictions for several months, notably by far-right groups. Participation in the protests has waned recently. The vast majority of French adults are vaccinated against COVID-19.
In Canada, horn-blaring demonstrations demanding an end to Canadian COVID-19 vaccine mandates for cross-border truck drivers are now spilling to key Canada-United States border crossings.
Copycat protests have also sprung up in Australia and New Zealand. Protesters waved the Canadian flag as France's "freedom convoy" got underway.