Paris police fire tear gas to disperse banned Covid protests inspired by Canadian truckers

ITV News Correspondent Vincent McAviney reports on the latest protests against Covid restrictions in France and elsewhere inspired by Canada’s horn-honking truckers

Paris police fired tear gas against a handful of demonstrators who managed to reach the Champs-Elysees Avenue in defiance of a police order.

The protesters were taking part in a vehicle protest against coronavirus restrictions inspired by Canada’s horn-honking “Freedom Convoy” that has been ongoing for days.

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 were able to slip in and disrupt traffic.

Authorities fired tear gas into the crowds as they demanded that the demonstrators disperse, some of whom climbed on to their vehicles in the middle of the road to create chaos.

Protesters part of a convoy drive past the Arc de Triomphe on the Champs-Elysees avenue on Saturday. Credit: AP

Police handed out 300 tickets to motorists involved in the protest and detained at least 54 people.

Elsewhere, several protesters were also detained 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 towards Paris from the north, south, east and west, waving and honking at onlookers as they drove by.

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Some convoys sought to avoid police detection by travelling on local roads instead of the major motorways 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 US.

Protesters angry over pandemic restrictions drove towards Paris. Credit: AP

The tense standoff at the US-Canadian border bridge that had been going on for days eased somewhat on Saturday after Canadian police persuaded demonstrators to move the trucks they had used to barricade the busy international crossing.

But protesters still blocked access as night approached, snarling traffic and trade between the two countries for a sixth day.

Since Monday, demonstrators angry at Covid vaccine mandates and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau have choked off access from the Canadian side of the Ambassador Bridge linking Detroit and Windsor, Ontario, a major thoroughfare for commerce.Trudeau has called the protesters a “fringe” of Canadian society.The demonstrations at the bridge, in Ottawa and elsewhere have reverberated outside the country, with similarly inspired convoys in France, New Zealand and the Netherlands, and the US Department of Homeland Security warned that truck protests may be in the works in the United States.

Trucks block a downtown street during protests against Covid-19 restrictions in Ottawa on Saturday. Credit: Patrick Doyle/The Canadian Press via AP

The French vehicle protest comes as months of demonstrations against French government vaccination rules have been waning.

To the north in the Netherlands, dozens of trucks and other vehicles – ranging from tractors to a car towing a camping van – arrived in The Hague to protest on Saturday, blocking an entrance to the historic parliamentary complex.

Protesters on foot joined the truckers, carrying a banner emblazoned with the Dutch words for “Love & freedom, no dictatorship.”

Police urged the protesters to move to a nearby park and warned the public about traffic problems.

Earlier this week in New Zealand, protesters rolled up to Parliament grounds in a convoy of cars and trucks and set up camp. Police have taken a hands-off approach after initial attempts to remove them resulted in physical confrontations.