France Protest Convoy Begins, Inspired by Canada’s Truckers

France Protest Convoy Begins, Inspired by Canada’s Truckers

Dozens of trucks and vehicles left southern France on Wednesday and headed for Paris as part of a convoy opposing the country’s vaccination pass program, a direct reverberation of the trucker-led protests that have engulfed Canada’s capital for nearly two weeks.

The demonstrators in France, who include motorcyclists and car drivers, are expected to be followed by similar convoys on Thursday and Friday. The movement’s name, the “Convoi de la Liberté,” is a direct translation of Canada’s “Freedom Convoy.”

The French protest was the latest reflection of how the demonstrations in Canada have captured the imaginations of far-right and anti-vaccine groups around the world, which have used social media to call for copycat gatherings in several countries including Australia, New Zealand and the United States.

Although the scale of the French protest remains unclear at this stage, the main Facebook group behind the movement has attracted more than 300,000 followers in just a few days. On Wednesday, members began posting images of protesters driving out of Nice, on the French Riviera, or packing food in advance of their journeys.

In a 25,000-member group on Telegram, an encrypted messaging app, people posted detailed maps for drivers to reach Paris, including meeting points along the way.

Protesters are expected to converge on the French capital on Friday, and some have called for people to continue on to Brussels, the headquarters for most European Union institutions.

Supporters of the movement describe themselves as opponents of France’s vaccine pass, a health passport that was introduced earlier this year and prevents people who are unvaccinated against Covid-19 from going to restaurants, theaters, cinemas and other venues.

Only about 8 percent of France’s adult population is unvaccinated, and opposition to the pass has been limited, but occasionally intense. Last summer, France experienced widespread, weekslong protests against new health pass policies.

Gabriel Attal, the French government’s spokesman, said on Wednesday that the vaccine pass would be removed “as soon as there is a normalization of the situation in the hospitals,” which health authorities said could happen this spring. Mr. Attal said that the country was seeing the “beginning of improvement,” with a 35 percent decrease in new coronavirus cases reported over the last seven days.

France’s Freedom Convoy has attracted the support of some of the country’s political opposition in France, particularly among far-right and far-left groups.

Marine Le Pen, the candidate of the far-right National Rally in presidential elections scheduled for April, said that she sympathized with the movement. She compared it to the Yellow Vests, a 2018 grass-roots movement that started as a protest against rising gas prices before spreading to include a wide array of anti-government grievances.

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