French Police fired tear gas on Saturday at protesters blocking traffic on the Champs-Élysées in central Paris as part of a large demonstration against COVID-19 restrictions. Protesters inspired by Canada’s “Freedom Convoy” got into cars, tractors, and other vehicles and drove into central Paris. Authorities had set up checkpoints to prevent the vehicles from entering Paris. And while police said they stopped at least 500 vehicles from taking part in the banned protest, dozens were also able to slip through the controls and help disrupt traffic. Overall, police handed out some 300 tickets to people involved in the protest while several protesters were detained with weapons, including knives and hammers.
The protesters were demonstrating against the vaccination pass that people in France are required to hold in order to go into restaurants and participate in numerous other activities. The protests organized online and appear to have been emboldened by the ongoing protests in Canada that were started by a group of truckers. Although ostensibly about the COVID restrictions, the protesters also had broader complaints and expressed anger about a fall in the standards of living sparked in part by rising inflation. French law enforcement was out in full force to stop the demonstrations amid fears that any protest could quickly grow. “French authorities say demonstrations are one thing, but blocking traffic in the capital is another. Clearly the French authorities are very keen to try and avoid a Canada style scenario, where the streets of the capital have been clogged up for weeks,” France 24’s Catherine Norris-Trent said.
France was hardly alone in seeing demonstrations inspired by what is going on in Canada. Protesters in the Netherlands also led a convoy of vehicles into The Hague to protest COVID-19 restrictions on Saturday by blocking entry to the seat of the Dutch government. The protesters vowed to continue their demonstrations until restrictions put in place to stem the spread of COVID-19 are lifted. Earlier in the week, protesters in New Zealand also set up a convoy to Parliament and set up camp in another demonstration inspired by the Canadian truckers.