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10 Feb, 2022 15:21

EU capital bans ‘Freedom Convoy’ protest

Police will keep the Canada-inspired trucker demonstration out of the Belgian capital, its mayor says
EU capital bans ‘Freedom Convoy’ protest

Brussels Mayor Philippe Close announced on Thursday that a protest convoy of truckers will be barred from entering the city. Inspired by an ongoing demonstration against vaccine mandates in Canada, the truckers are set to reach the Belgian capital early next week.

“We have taken the decision to ban the ‘Freedom Convoy’ which has not been authorized to demonstrate because no request has been sent,” Close wrote on Twitter, noting that he made the decision along with Interior Minister Annelies Verlinden and Brussels region Minister President Rudi Vervoort.

Local and federal police “will divert motorized vehicles coming towards the capital despite the ban,” Close added.

Drawing participants from across the continent, the protest is inspired by a similar demonstration in the Canadian capital of Ottawa. Traffic in parts of Ottawa has been brought to a standstill for nearly two weeks by truckers demanding the immediate lifting of Covid restrictions, including a mandate that requires them to be vaccinated to re-enter the country from the US.

As host to key EU institutions, Brussels is a natural focal point for the European protest. While individual nations in the bloc have begun rolling back their vaccine pass systems at home, vaccination or proof of a negative Covid test is required to cross national borders within the union, and the EU recently proposed extending this system until 2023.

Truckers en route to Brussels have planned some stops along the way, with a major protest set to hit Paris this weekend. Authorities in the French capital issued a similar ban on Thursday, and threatened protesters with stiff fines should they block traffic in the city. Paris police said that a “specific device” would be used by the authorities to prevent the convoy from entering the city.