Protest Convoy against COVID-19 Vaccine Pass Heads for Banned Brussels Rally

Protest Convoy against COVID-19 Vaccine Pass Heads for Banned Brussels Rally

TEHRAN (Tasnim) – Hundreds of cars, campervans and trucks taking part in a Canada-style protest convoy against COVID-19 regulations were preparing to enter Brussels on Monday where Belgian officials have already banned a demonstration following a weekend attempt in Paris.

Around 1,300 vehicles from across France had arrived near the French border town of Lille by late Sunday, according to police, AFP reported.

The protest is one of several worldwide inspired by the truckers' standoff with authorities in Canada.

Camped at a parking lot near Lille, protesters brandished French flags and chanted "We won't give up" and "Freedom, freedom".

"We'll go to Brussels to try to block it, to fight against this policy of permanent control," said Mr. Jean-Pierre Schmit, an unemployed 58-year-old who came from Toulouse.

For Sandrine, 45, who came from Lyon, the government's response to the COVID-19 crisis had revealed that "we're losing our freedoms bit by bit, in an insidious way".

The latest self-proclaimed "freedom convoy" comes after 97 people were arrested at the weekend in Paris where thousands of demonstrators defied a ban on attempting to blockade the French capital.

In France, the demonstrators took aim at the "vaccine pass" required to enter restaurants, cafes and many other public venues implemented as part of President Emmanuel Macron's inoculation drive.

Belgian authorities have banned all protests in the capital with "motorized vehicles" and said they had taken measures to prevent the blocking of the Brussels region.

Brussels police have posted on social media warning that vehicle protests are banned and advising against travelling to the capital by car, channeling convoys to a parking lot on the outskirts of the city as the only place where a static protest will be tolerated.

Some participants in a similar demonstration organized in The Hague have also announced their intention to go to Belgium.

Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo had, however, advised the demonstrators to abandon their plans to come to Brussels.

"I say to those who come from abroad: look at the rules in Belgium. We never had rules that were too hard and we don't have so many anymore. So complain at home," he said last Friday.

Checks are planned at the border and vehicles coming to the capital despite the ban will be diverted, Belgian authorities warned.

Brussels airport also advised travelers to take precautions on Monday and come by train for fear of blocking access routes.

The self-proclaimed "freedom convoy" is one of several worldwide inspired by a truckers' standoff with authorities in Canada over vaccine mandates.

In Canada, police on Sunday cleared demonstrators who had occupied a key US border bridge for a week but thousands of protesters remained in the capital Ottawa, where they have paralyzed the city centre.

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