Farnworth Hendrickson Jr.
On February 12, protesters in the “Freedom Convoy” in France clashed against the pandemic restrictions with the French police. These clashes are the latest in a series of protests that have been spreading around the world in response to COVID-19 restrictions and mandates. Protesters were trying to enter the “Arc de Triomphe,” which is the entrance in central Paris to the famous Champs-Elysees Avenue.
Protesters tried fighting their way through to the avenue, but they were immediately blocked off by French police. According to The Washington Post, “French authorities, who had deployed more than 7,000 police officers to stop the convoys, warned that violators could face two years in prison, a fine of more than $5,000 and a suspended driver’s license.” French police fired tear gas on Champs-Elysees Avenue to settle down the protestors but were unable to stop the crowd as “Cars carrying protesters managed to get through police checkpoints in central Paris to snarl traffic around the Arc de Triomphe monument,” says Al Jazeera. Reuters further reports that Thirty-two thousand people nationwide participated in these protests, 7,600 in Paris alone, while the police arrested 54 people and fined more than 300.
According to The Guardian, these protestors were largely motivated by COVID-19 fatigue. After nearly two years of immense economic and human loss, the people in the Freedom Convoy claim that they are “tired.” The spread of the Omicron variant exacerbated these concerns as restrictions were once again implemented to contain the spread of the disease. The Washington Post reports that French President Emmanuel Macron has taken a strict approach to vaccination and other COVID-19 related requirements.
Canada has been facing similar disruptions as well where a large convoy of truckers shut down the border between the U.S. and Canada to protest COVID-19 vaccination mandates, reports The Washington Post. Similarly, anti-COVID-19 restriction protestors reached the seat of the Dutch government in the Hague, bringing traffic to a halt in the city. In Canada, truck drivers must be fully vaccinated to go in and out of the country, otherwise they must comply with quarantine requirements. According to CNN, the Canadian protests, which began in January, gained international attention and sparked similar movements of disgruntled workers in many developed countries where large portions of the population have been vaccinated. The Canadian government recently invoked unprecedented emergency powers to deal with the protestors as they converged on the capital of Ottawa, while many more were arrested along the U.S. border in Alberta, reports Al Jazeera.
Many venues in France discontinued the requirement of providing a negative test for entry, permitting only those who can show proof of vaccination to attend certain locations. Macron announced that he wanted to make the lives of the unvaccinated “as miserable as possible” in an attempt to get them to take the vaccine. Like the Canadian government, the French government is not keen on removing the public health policies and may move to take a harsher response to these protests. As the demands of the protesters remain unmet, however, French authorities will face increasing difficulty in getting the ‘Freedom Convoy’ to settle down.