Paris police fired tear gas Saturday against a handful of demonstrators on the Champs Elysees after they defied a police order and organised a vehicle protest against COVID-19 restrictions inspired by Canada’s horn-honking “Freedom Convoy”.
Police set up checkpoints into the French capital on key roads and said they successfully stopped at least 500 vehicles from heading to the banned protest, but a few dozen vehicles managed to slip in and disrupt traffic.
Authorities fired tear gas as they demanded that the demonstrators disperse, some of whom climbed onto their vehicles in the middle of the road to create chaos.
Police handed out 300 tickets to motorists involved in the protest. Elsewhere, the police detained several protesters amid a seizure of knives, hammers and other objects in a central Parisian square.
Railing against the vaccination pass that France requires for people to enter restaurants and many other venues, protesters tried to weave toward Paris from the north, south, east and west, waving and honking at onlookers as they drove by.
Some convoys avoided police detection by travelling on local roads instead of the major highways leading into the capital.
Waving French flags and shouting “Freedom!” the protesters organised online, galvanised in part by truckers who have blockaded the centre of Ottawa, Canada’s capital, and blocked border crossings to the U.S.
The French vehicle protest comes as months of demonstrations against French government vaccination rules have waned.
Authorities in France and Belgium have banned road blockades threatened by groups organising online against COVID-19 restrictions.
To the north in the Netherlands, dozens of trucks and other vehicles — ranging from tractors to a car towing a camping ban — arrived in The Hague to protest Saturday, blocking an entrance to the historic parliamentary complex.
Protesters on foot joined the truckers, carrying a banner with “Love & freedom, no dictatorship” emblazoned in Dutch.
Police urged the protesters to move to a nearby park and warned the public about the resulting traffic issues.