- Paris will witness Canadian-style protests against the Covid-19 restrictions as protesters have lined up in front of the country’s capital.
- According to the police, nearly 1,800 vehicles are approaching Paris.
- Citizens will also protest the rapidly rising energy prices in the country.
PARIS: Thousands of people drove to Paris in convoys from all over France on Friday, with many hoping to blockade the capital to protest Covid vaccination rules and other restrictions, despite police warnings to back off.
Inspired by Canadian truck drivers paralyzing border traffic with the United States, French protesters set out from Bayonne, Perpignan, Lyon, Lille, Strasbourg and elsewhere aiming to gather in Paris on Friday evening.
A police source said an estimated 1,800 vehicles were approaching the capital.
Among the protesters are anti-Covid vaccination activists, as well as people angry at soaring energy prices.
They are demanding the withdrawal of the government’s vaccination pass, which is required for access to many public areas, and more help with their energy bills.
“People need to see us and listen to the people who just want to live a normal and free life,” said Lisa, a 62-year-old retired health worker who joined a convoy of more than 1,000 vehicles leaving Chateaubourg in the western Brittany region. early Friday.
Like other protesters, Lisa has been active in the ‘yellow vest’ movement that erupted after a fuel tax hike before becoming a platform for other complaints against President Emmanuel Macron.
Just two months before the presidential election and with the government desperate to avoid violent scenes in the capital, Macron said Friday he understood the “fatigue” associated with the Covid-19 pandemic.
“This fatigue also leads to anger. I understand it and I respect it. But I call for extreme calm,” he told Ouest-France newspaper.
– ‘United Against the Government’ –
The yellow vests often clashed with police, but Lisa said she hoped Friday’s protests would be peaceful. “It would really annoy me if it got out of hand,” she told AFP.
After spending a cold night in a parking lot, drivers in Chateaubourg set out in a long line of trucks, passenger cars and campers as sympathetic passers-by waved from bridges.
A contingent from Brittany arrived late Friday in the parking lot of a shopping center outside Chartres, 100 kilometers (60 miles) southwest of Paris.
“We are citizens, we have families, we work and we are all united against the government,” said Sarah, a 40-year-old tattoo artist from the northern city of Lens.
Paris police banned the meeting over feared “disruptions to public order” and said protesters who tried to block roads would face fines or arrest.
“We have to be very determined on this,” Prime Minister Jean Castex said.
The police showed their anti-blockade arsenal on Twitter, publishing photos of front loader tractors for removing barricades and trucks equipped with cranes or water cannons.
The protesters, meanwhile, shared information about police deployment around Paris.
“It’s important that we don’t hinder other people on the road,” said an activist, Robin, en route from Illkirch-Graffenstaden in eastern Alsace. “That way we keep the population on our side, like they did in Canada.”
– ‘You feel less alone’ –
Many protesters plan to stay overnight in Paris and then take part in one of Saturday’s regular protests against the government’s vaccine pass.
Some then want to travel on to Brussels for a “European gathering” of protesters scheduled for Monday.
Phil, a 58-year-old trucking from Brittany, said his refusal to get vaccinated had caused “turmoil” in his family and working relationships.
“When you participate in a demonstration, you feel less alone,” he told AFP.
The government has expressed some sympathy for the protesters, with spokesman Gabriel Attal attributing their anger to “tiredness and fatigue” following prolonged Covid restrictions.
The government also announced further easing of Covid rules on Friday.