Police fire tear gas, fine Paris protest convoy

4. Paris protest
A protester, standing next to a gendarmerie armored vehicle VBRG, holds a French flag and a sign reading 'I support the freedom convoy' at Place Denfert-Rochereau in southern Paris on February 11, 2022. (Photo: AFP)
PARIS — Paris police fired tear gas and issued hundreds of fines on Saturday to break up a convoy of vehicles that attempted to block traffic in a protest over coronavirus restrictions and rising living costs.اضافة اعلان

Inspired by truckers who shut down the Canadian capital Ottawa, thousands of demonstrators from across France made their way to Paris in a self-proclaimed “freedom convoy” of cars, trucks, and vans.

The police, who had banned the protest, moved quickly to try to clear cars at entry points to the city, handing out 283 fines for participation in an unauthorized protest.

But more than 100 vehicles managed to converge on the famous Champs-Elysees avenue, where police used teargas to disperse protesters in scenes reminiscent of the “yellow vest” anti-government riots of 2018–2019.

The demonstrators oppose the COVID-19 vaccine pass required to access many public venues but some also took aim at rising energy and food prices, issues which ignited the “yellow vest” protests that shook France in late 2018 and early 2019.

Aurelie M., a 42-year-old administrative assistant from Paris, complained that the health pass meant she could no longer take a long-distance TGV train even if she tested negative for COVID-19 in a home test.

“There’s so much inconsistency and unfairness,” she told AFP, noting that commuters could still cram onto crowded Paris metros without proof of vaccination.

‘Fatigue leads to anger’

Sixty-five-year-old factory worker Jean-Paul Lavigne said he had traveled in from the southwestern town of Albi to protest not just the pressure to get vaccinated, but also fuel, food, and electricity price hikes.

Across the rest of the capital, more than 7,600 other people also protested against the vaccination pass, the interior ministry said.

The demonstrations come two months before presidential elections, in which President Emmanuel Macron is expected to seek re-election.

On Friday, the centrist French leader, a figure of hate for the far left, said he understood the “fatigue” linked to the pandemic.

“This fatigue also leads to anger. I understand it ... But I call for the utmost calm,” he told the Ouest-France newspaper.

Nearly 7,200 officers equipped with armored vehicles and water cannons were deployed to keep the peace in Paris.

The convoys set out from Nice in the south, Lille and Vimy in the north, Strasbourg in the east, and Chateaubourg in the west.

They are demanding the withdrawal of the government’s vaccine pass and more help with their energy bills.

“People need to see us, and to listen to the people who just want to live a normal and free life,” said Lisa, a 62-year-old retired health worker travelling in from Chateaubourg, who did not want to give her surname.

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