Protesters in France began on Wednesday what they are calling the "freedom convoy," with the ultimate goal of converging around Paris and Brussels, to demand an end to COVID-19 restrictions.
The vehicular protest was inspired by the ongoing demonstrations in Canada, where a sizeable group of truck drivers have blocked a border crossing to protest a COVID-19 vaccine mandate imposed in January by Canada and the US.
France's convoy took off from several cities. In the Mediterranean city of Nice, some 200 people motorcycles and private cars set off for Paris and Brussels. Many of them are upset about the government's health pass, a vaccination requirement that has shut out the unvaccinated from public life.
Residents of France are obliged to show the health pass, as proof of COVID vaccination, to go to restaurants, movie theaters or ride a train, among other activities.
"Lots of people don't understand why a vaccine pass is in force in France," one participant and coordinator of the event in Nice told Reuters news agency.
"Our work is to communicate to Europe that putting in place a health pass until 2023 is something the majority of our fellow citizens cannot understand," the man added.
The protests come as France is slowly emerging from its omicron wave of the virus and two months before a presidential election.
Organized on social media
A total of six "convoys" have been organized so far. Aside from Nice, residents from Bayonne, Strasbourg and Cherbourg, among other cities, have taken part.
The demonstrators hope to form a major rally in Paris on Friday evening and Brussels on Monday, but organizers have not provided many details on what it will all entail.
The movement has been organized primarily through social media, using the platforms Facebook and Telegram, with each boasting some 23,000 followers, the AFP news agency reported.
"We are just tired of it all. We want to go where we want without being asked for a vaccine pass. At least with this action, I am doing something," an independent truck driver, who joined the protest in the city of Perpignan, told Reuters.
Authorities are aware of the freedom convoy. Police sources told AFP that they were already planning "security measures" ahead of the convoy's convergence, to avoid disturbances.
jcg/fb (Reuters, AFP)