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‘Freedom Convoy’ in Canada inspires vaccine-mandate protests from France to New Zealand

A demonstrator walks in front of parked trucks at a Feb. 8 protest over vaccine mandates in Ottawa. (Dave Chan/AFP/Getty Images)

The protests over pandemic restrictions engulfing Canada’s capital and disrupting U.S.-Canada border crossings have inspired others that have tapped into simmering resentment in cities around the world.

In Europe, Brussels braced Monday for the arrival of protests inspired by the self-described “Freedom Convoy” in Canada, as in the Middle East, an Israeli “Convoy for Freedom” appeared to be making its way to Jerusalem.

In the United States, the trucker protest has drawn attention from politicians debating coronavirus protocols, as Canadian police said a “significant” foreign element played a role in funding and organization. Despite warnings from the Department of Homeland Security that U.S. truckers were planning to block roads in a convoy from California to D.C. that could have affected Sunday’s Super Bowl in Los Angeles, the event did not appear to have been disrupted.

The movement that started with frustration from truckers over coronavirus vaccination mandates at the border has snowballed to include a hodgepodge of grievances. Here are some parts of the world seeing protests of varying scale energized by the Freedom Convoy:

Canada’s Trumpian trucker protests show the global radicalization of anti-vaxxers


Protesters planned to converge in Brussels on Monday, but stern warnings from national and local authorities appear to have dissuaded them from entering the heart of the city — at least for now.

Through Monday morning rush hour, the part of the European Quarter where groups hoped to protest did not see any disruption except for additional fencing and the presence of police.

Brussels braces for arrival of ‘Freedom Convoy’-inspired protests against vaccine mandates

In the Telegram channels where convoys were coordinating, some groups decided to drive to Strasbourg, the French city that serves as the formal seat of the European Parliament, instead of carrying on to Brussels. Others said they still planned to try to make it to Brussels by Monday afternoon.

Though the region has a history of trucker and anti-lockdown protests, the Ottawa demonstrations have fueled a rush of online organizing, including from anti-vaccine and anti-mandate groups rallying under the “European Freedom Convoy” banner. Facebook groups for events in a number of cities have drawn tens of thousands of members. On Telegram channels circulating the plans, messages ranged from expressions of support for truckers to misinformation about vaccines.

Paris and Brussels to ban ‘Freedom Convoy’ inspired by Canadian protest


Protesters in trucks, on motorcycles and on foot were heading toward the Israeli parliament in Jerusalem on Monday, photos and videos shared on social media showed.

According to the daily newspaper Israel Hayom, which has been supportive of conservative former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli Convoy for Freedom is calling for an end to the government’s emergency powers, to public health restrictions such as mask mandates in schools, and to authorities’ widespread use of cellphone surveillance to contain the coronavirus.

Here’s what you need to know about the ‘Freedom Convoy’ in Canada

Wellington, New Zealand

Protesters gathered outside New Zealand’s Parliament building in Wellington for a sixth day Sunday as officials upped the ante in their attempts to scatter the assembled groups, blasting “Baby Shark,” “Let It Go” and other songs after sprinklers failed to deter the crowds.

The efforts did not appear successful, as the people protesting pandemic measures were heard singing along to a cringe-inducing recorder cover of “My Heart Will Go On,” standing their ground amid cries of “freedom!”

New Zealand switches on sprinklers, and ‘Baby Shark,’ to deter ‘Freedom Convoy’-inspired protesters

Days earlier, a convoy of vehicles clogged streets in Wellington, the capital, with horns blaring and crowds taking to the streets to oppose vaccine mandates. “It’s not about HEALTH, it’s about CONTROL,” one sign read.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has described the protesters a minority. The country, which is set to start easing its border closure this month, has maintained some of the world’s toughest restrictions during the pandemic, a policy authorities credit for keeping infections and deaths low.

Local media reported Friday that in an effort to dislodge some protesters, Speaker of Parliament Trevor Mallard ordered water sprinklers to be kept on outside Parliament — a tactic to get those camped outside to leave.

“No one who is here is here legally, and if they’re getting wet from below as well as above, they’re likely to be a little bit less comfortable and more likely to go home,” Mallard told press. In retaliation, some protesters covered the sprinklers with cones, while others dug trenches on the lawn to redirect the water.

Vaccine mandate protesters blocked streets in Wellington on Feb. 9 with trucks and camper vans, inspired by similar demonstrations in Canada. (Video: Reuters)

Canada’s capital is jammed, its border crossings are blockaded, and there’s no end in sight


French protesters opposed to pandemic restrictions temporarily blocked parts of the Champs-Élysées on Saturday, disrupting traffic on the capital’s most recognizable street and marking the first major European emulation of Canada’s anti-government and anti-vaccine mandate movement. French police had announced in a statement that they were banning the demonstrations, which they said were intended to “block the capital” and risked disrupting “public order.”

Local outlets reported that police made at least 97 arrests at the protest in Paris on Saturday.

France’s ‘Freedom Convoy’ disrupts traffic on the Champs-Elysees in Paris, confronts police

Canberra, Australia

In the capital of Australia, self-styled “Convoy to Canberra” rallies that have lasted nearly two weeks continued over the weekend, with police estimating there were some 10,000 protesters near Parliament on Saturday, one of the movement’s strongest showings yet.

Police said they arrested four protesters who were part of a group that allegedly tried to enter Parliament House illegally on Saturday, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation reported.

Protesters who have been camping at Exhibition Park, a nearby event site, were given until midnight on Sunday by authorities to leave or face possible charges. The Canberra Times reported that most had left the area by Sunday afternoon, but that some protesters spoke of returning or of setting up camp in a different area.

Australian lawmakers fear escalation of Canberra protests influenced by Canadian truckers


In Alaska, dozens of truckers gathered in Anchorage last weekend, driving to Eagle River to show support for the Ottawa protesters and reject vaccine requirements for crossing the border, according to local media outlets. “Mandates should be our choice, whether you want the shots or not,” one truck driver told the Anchorage Daily News, which reported that other cities in Alaska saw similar events.

Canadian officials caution against ‘foreign interference’ as U.S. Republicans back ‘Freedom Convoy’ protests

New York

In New York, a group of city workers marched in protest of a measure set to take effect requiring them to get vaccinated or face dismissal. The protesters walked across the Brooklyn Bridge last Monday holding large U.S. and Canadian flags. Some of their signs read, “Workers Are Essential, Mandates Are Not” and “We will not comply with tyranny.”

–Emily Rauhala, Rick Noack and Bryan Pietsch contributed to this report.

Coronavirus: What you need to know

Where do things stand? See the latest covid numbers in the U.S. and across the world. In the U.S., pandemic trends have shifted and now White people are more likely to die from covid than Black people.

The state of public health: Conservative and libertarian forces have defanged much of the nation’s public health system through legislation and litigation as the world staggers into the fourth year of covid.

Grief and the pandemic: A Washington Post reporter covered the coronavirus — and then endured the death of her mother from covid-19. She offers a window into grief and resilience.

Would we shut down again? What will the United States do the next time a deadly virus comes knocking on the door?

Vaccines: The CDC recommends that everyone age 5 and older get an updated covid booster shot. New federal data shows adults who received the updated shots cut their risk of being hospitalized with covid-19 by 50 percent. Here’s guidance on when you should get the omicron booster and how vaccine efficacy could be affected by your prior infections.

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