UPDATED: Police fire tear gas as anti-restrictions “Freedom Convoy” enters Paris

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PARIS, Feb 12 (Reuters) – French police fired tear gas at demonstrators on the Champs Elysees avenue in Paris on Saturday shortly after a “Freedom Convoy” protesting against COVID-19 restrictions made it into the capital.

Cars carrying protesters managed to get through police checkpoints in central Paris to snarl traffic around the Arc de Triomphe monument.

Inspired by horn-blaring “Freedom Convoy” demonstrations in Canada, the motorists waved French flags and honked in defiance of a police order not to enter the city.

Police told protesters to move on as some climbed on their cars in the middle of the roundabout at the top of the Champs Elysees

Earlier police said they had stopped 500 vehicles that were trying to get into Paris and nearly 300 tickets were handed out to their occupants by mid-morning, police said.

Less than two months from a presidential election, President Emmanuel Macron’s government is eager to keep protests from spiralling into large-scale demonstrations like the anti-government “Yellow Vest” protests of 2018.

Separately police also said they had arrested five protesters in southern Paris in possession of sling shots, hammers, knives and gas masks.

Police had mobilised more than 7,000 officers, set up checkpoints and deployed armoured personnel carriers and water cannon trucks in preparation for the protests.

Canadian truckers protesting a vaccine mandate for trans-border traffic have paralysed parts of the capital Ottawa since late January and blocked U.S.-Canada crossing points.

The French protests are against rules requiring a vaccine pass to enter many public places and come after months of regular demonstrations against the pass in Paris and other cities.

The Yellow Vest movement which began as a protest against fuel taxes grew into a broader revolt that saw some of the worst street violence in decades and tested Macron’s authority.

Police have allowed two street marches by anti-vaccine and Yellow Vest demonstrators to go ahead in Paris on Saturday afternoon.

Photo – French police forces stand at a checkpoint on the Paris ring road to prevent members of the ‘Freedom Convoy’ from entering Paris, France, 12 February 2022. Paris police have prohibited the convoy, as announced by the capital?s prefect on 10 February. A series of convoy demonstrations has been taking place in France to call for the lifting of all Covid-19-related restrictions and mandates, in light of the ongoing protest in Canada, where truck drivers have been rallying against the government-imposed mandatory Covid-19 vaccine to enter the country. EPA-EFE/CHRISTOPHE PETIT TESSON

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