French police intercept ‘freedom convoy’ during Covid protest
Police have intercepted hundreds of vehicles trying to enter Paris as part of a protest against France’s coronavirus regulations.
Tear gas was fired in the city as demonstrators defied an order banning the “Freedom Convoy”.
Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin said more than 300 tickets had been handed out and 54 people arrested.
Authorities have deployed more than 7,000 officers over the next three days in a bid to stop the demonstrators.
Some vehicles managed to arrive at the Arc de Triomphe, and tear gas was fired at demonstrators on the nearby Champs-Élysées avenue.
Austria and Belgium have banned such convoys from entering their capitals, with similar demonstrations also emerging in Australia, New Zealand and the Netherlands.
On Saturday, police in Paris said they had intercepted hundreds of vehicles heading into the city.
Two were allegedly carrying knives, hammers and petrol canisters, and five were allegedly carrying slingshots.
Demonstrators who oppose France’s Covid pass want to gather and blockade the capital across the weekend.
Convoys have organised online and appear to come from various political and ideological backgrounds, making it difficult to estimate how many vehicles might arrive in Paris each day.
Some plan to continue on to Brussels for further demonstrations on Monday but city officials there have also banned the planned demonstration.
Prime Minister Jean Castex said on Friday that authorities would be “very firm” if the group tried to block the French capital.
He told France 2: “The right to demonstrate and to have an opinion are a constitutionally guaranteed right in our republic and in our democracy. The right to block others or prevent coming and going is not.”
(Image: Tim Young/Twitter)
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