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French anti-vaccine convoy heads to Brussels for another banned rally

This photo purportedly shows a French trucker taking part at a protest over COVID-19 restrictions. (Pic by Teloun)

Belgian authorities are bracing themselves to prevent a massive convoy of cars, campervans and trucks protesting the COVID-19 regulations from making their way to Brussels.

The vehicles, taking part in a Canada-style protest convoy, are set to enter Brussels Monday where local officials have already banned a demonstration following a weekend demonstration in Paris.

As part of the so-called "European Freedom Convoy", the protest is one of the several being organized across the world, inspired by the truckers’ standoff with authorities in Canada.

According to police, around 1,300 vehicles from across France had arrived near the French border town of Lille by late Sunday, with protesters brandishing French flags and chanting slogans such as “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 Jean-Pierre Schmit, an unemployed 58-year-old protester.

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

these are the routes of the #truck #convoy #freedomconvoy #europe in #france #paris that are expected to try to cross the #belgium border on sunday or monday to try to descend on #brussel #bruxelles #brussels

— Vlaamse Geuzen - solidarity with Ukraine (@v_geuzen) February 9, 2022

Authorities in Belgium have reportedly banned all demonstrations with “motorised vehicles” in Brussels and taken measures to prevent the blocking of the national capital.

A social media warning from the Belgian police says that demonstrators have been barred from travelling to the capital by car, with convoys being directed to a parking lot on the outskirts of the city.

Meanwhile, some participants in a similar demonstration organised in The Hague have also expressed their intention to go to Belgium.

Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo on Friday had urged 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.

The rally in Brussels comes after 97 people were arrested at the weekend in Paris after thousands of demonstrators took to the streets of the French capital, defying the ban.

The demonstrators are opposed to the "vaccine pass" required to enter restaurants, cafes and many other public venues implemented by the French government as part of its efforts to fight the pandemic.

However, some are also angry at rising energy and food prices, which led to widely-publicized “yellow vest” protests that shook France in late 2018 and early 2019.

The French government has announced that it plans to ease off face mask mandates by February 28, and is hoping to end the vaccine pass requirement by late March or early April.

In related news, Canada's Border Services Agency announced the resumption of cross-border traffic, signaling an end to the truckers' protest over the COVID-19 restrictions.

Canadian authorities reopened the Ambassador Bridge, a vital border crossing, on Sunday night after police cleared the blockade by the “Freedom Convoy” after three weeks.

ALERT: Normal border processing has resumed at the Ambassador Bridge. Non-essential travel is not advised.

— Border Services SOR (@CanBorderSOR) February 14, 2022

In a statement, Detroit International Bridge Co. said “the Ambassador Bridge is now fully open allowing the free flow of commerce between the Canada and US economies once again.”

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