French President Emmanuel Macron urges for calm ahead of ‘Freedom Convoy’ copycats

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Feb. 11 (UPI) — French President Emmanuel Macron called for calm Friday ahead of planned copycats of Canada’s “Freedom Convoy” trucker protests over COVID-19 restrictions in Europe.

Macron, in an interview with Ouest-France, acknowledged that French citizens are collectively experiencing “fatigue” after two years of coronavirus restrictions such as vaccination passes required to dine at bars and restaurants.

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“This fatigue is expressed in several ways: by disarray in some, depression in others. We see a very strong mental suffering among our young and old. And sometimes, this fatigue also translates into anger. I hear it and respect it,” Macron said, adding that he calls for “the greatest calm.”

“The demands of each other are always legitimate. We have always preserved the right to demonstrate, democratic pluralism, parliamentary debates during this period. But we need harmony, a lot of collective benevolence.”

Thousands of Canadian truckers have blocked roads leading to business closures in the capital Ottawa, blockades across border crossings with the United States and other unrest and cities across the country.

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Canada in January started requiring that all truck drivers entering Canada from the United States be fully vaccinated or quarantine for 14 days.

On Friday, Chief Justice Geoffrey Morawetz of the Ontario Superior Court ruled that demonstrators must clear the Ambassador Bridge and said that they would face “severe” consequences if they do not leave peacefully, The New York Times reported.

The movement has spurred planned protests in Paris and the Belgian capital of Brussels, which is also the headquarters for the European Union. An account on Twitter describing itself as the Europe Convoy shared a map noting that protesters intended to descend on national capitals across the continent.

Police officials told Ouest-France that they estimated more than 5,000 people in more than 3,300 vehicles had gathered around the country and were headed for Paris. Cops have set up anti-riot barricades and deployed armored vehicles in a bid to discourage violence after banning the convoy from Paris on Thursday.

“The stated objective of these demonstrators would be to ‘block the Capital’ by hindering the traffic in the streets of Paris to promote their demands, before continue their journey towards Brussels on Monday,” French police said in a statement.

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Police said that obscuring roads can lead to two years of imprisonment, a fine of about $5,100, the impoundment of the vehicle and a three-year driver’s license suspension. Organizers will face steeper fines.

Lisa-Maria Neudert, a researcher who tracks anti-lockdown sentiment in Europe, told The Washington Post that information from right-wing conspiracy theorists in the United States is being spread in German-language groups online.

“These telegram groups have a history of looking to what is happening in the U.S.,” she told the outlet.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has warned law enforcement agencies that a trucker protest is expected to descend on Los Angeles during Super Bowl weekend which could lead to transportation disruptions and counter-protests, CBS News reported.

The agency warned that the U.S. protest could then head across the country to Washington, D.C., to arrive before President Joe Biden gives his State of the Union address on March 1.