PARIS; Paris police on Thursday banned road blockades threatened by groups organizing online against COVID-19 restrictions, in part inspired by protesters in Canada.
Citing “risks of trouble to public order,” the Paris police department banned protests aimed at “blocking the capital” from Friday through Monday. Police will put measures in place 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.
Online chat groups in France have been calling for drivers to converge on Paris starting Friday night, and to continue on 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.
The French protesters have been sharing images of truckers in Canada who have blockaded border crossings and paralyzed downtown Ottawa. They want an end to Canada’s COVID-19 restrictions, including a rule that all truckers entering Canada be fully vaccinated.