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French ‘freedom convoy’ opposing COVID-19 mandates head to Paris

Click to play video: 'Paris braces for approaching European protest convoy' Paris braces for approaching European protest convoy
WATCH: Paris braces for approaching European protest convoy – Feb 11, 2022

Hundreds of participants to the French ‘Freedom Convoys‘ and supporters gathered on Friday (February 11) near the Vimy Canadian war memorial, in Northern France, as convoys hailing from Valenciennes, Lille and Arras were merging on their way to Paris.

Motorist drove past while honking, as supporters waved French flags to the cries of “freedom, freedom, freedom”, many of them also wearing the infamous yellow vest.

“I’m using my work hours and time I would otherwise spend with my family to do something,” said motorist Djemi Drici, as he drove a car clad in French flags. “Because doing nothing is giving consent and I don’t give consent.”

Read more: Paris bans French ‘freedom convoy’ inspired by Ottawa trucker protests


Click to play video: 'Paris bans French convoy inspired by Ottawa protests from entering city' Paris bans French convoy inspired by Ottawa protests from entering city
Paris bans French convoy inspired by Ottawa protests from entering city – Feb 10, 2022

France will deploy thousands of police in and around Paris on Friday and over the weekend and set up checkpoints at toll stations on major roads leading into the capital to keep “Freedom Convoy” motorists out, the city’s police force said.

Despite an order not to enter Paris, motorists protesting against COVID-19 restrictions are converging on the French capital from multiple cities across France, like in Vimy, inspired by the horn-blaring demonstrations taking place in Canada.

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The French “Freedom Convoy” protests, however, show signs of uniting a disparate group against President Emmanuel Macron two months out from April’s presidential election, with remnants of the 2018/2019 anti-government “Yellow Vest” movement and some far-right politicians rallying behind the motorists.

Click to play video: '‘Freedom convoy’ in France, inspired by Canadian protests, gets underway' ‘Freedom convoy’ in France, inspired by Canadian protests, gets underway
‘Freedom convoy’ in France, inspired by Canadian protests, gets underway – Feb 9, 2022

One yellow vest supporter in Vimy who did not give his name told Reuters he was driving to Paris “for freedom, against the vaccine pass, also for issues relating to purchasing power, fuel prices and all that.”

The motorists’ protest follows waves of demonstrations over France’s vaccine pass rules — which require people to show proof of inoculation against COVID to enter bars, restaurants, cinemas and other public spaces.

Whereas in Canada the protests have united truckers angered by a vaccine mandate for crossing borders, in France it is everyday folk angry over COVID restrictions who are taking to their vehicles.

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Read more: Injunction granted to prevent protesters from blocking Ambassador Bridge

The different convoys are expected to arrive outside Paris later on Friday. Their numbers are unclear and some meeting point appeared to be deserted on Friday.

The police deployment will include rapid-response officers on motorcycles and heavy-lifting equipment to dismantle any makeshift roadblocks put up by the protesters.

Some supporters of the “Freedom Convoys” said the protesters should not be deterred by the police order to stay remain outside Paris city limits.

Click to play video: 'Foreign influence concerns rise as Ottawa convoy galvanizes U.S. far-right' Foreign influence concerns rise as Ottawa convoy galvanizes U.S. far-right
Foreign influence concerns rise as Ottawa convoy galvanizes U.S. far-right – Feb 7, 2022

The “Yellow Vest” revolt shook Macron’s presidency over several months and revealed a deep-seated anger felt outside big cities at the high cost of living and an urban elite perceived as disconnected from the daily hardships of regular folk.

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With spiralling energy prices and a strong economic rebound driving inflation higher, households are again feeling a squeeze on budgets, prompting the government to take piecemeal measures to curb voter frustration.

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