COVID Protesters Threatened With 2 Years in Prison for Blocking Traffic

French authorities said a "freedom convoy" could face jail time if participants block roads in a planned protest in Paris against COVID-19 restrictions.

Paris police said the protests aimed at "blocking the capital" from Friday through Monday before heading to Belgium on Monday won't be allowed to block public roads in Paris due to "risks of trouble to public order," the Associated Press reported. Police warned protesters who choose to block traffic could face two years in prison, a $5,000 fine and a suspended driver's license.

The European protests were inspired by the so-called Freedom Convoy movement in Canada where truckers are protesting against vaccine mandates and COVID-19 restrictions. Demonstrators in France have launched their own version protesting against the country's vaccine pass, and similar protests have taken place in New Zealand and Australia, The Guardian reported.

Several convoys left the south of France on Wednesday, with more leaving Thursday. The protesters planned to be in Paris from February 11 to February 14 before heading to Brussels for a "European convergence" demanding an end to COVID-19 restrictions, Euro News reported.

"There will be a special deployment of officers to prevent blockages of major roads, issue tickets and arrest those who contravene this protest ban," French police said in a statement. Police say they were given instructions to "act firmly" during the protest, according to The Guardian.

French government spokesperson Gabriel Attal said the government is aware of the peoples weariness surrounding COVID-19 restrictions, but France has taken "some of the least restrictive measures" in Europe.

"There are more than a few hundred thousand people who are fed up with living with this virus and, in France as everywhere in the world, political movements, often radical, have sought to capitalize on this weariness," Euro News quoted Attal.

Belgian authorities said they would also be banning the convoys planned in Brussels next week. The mayor of Brussels, Philippe Close, said the demonstrations were not allowed since "there was no application" for the protests. Close said police would be using zones to prevent vehicles trying to enter the capital despite the ban, CNN reported.

The movement is organized on social media, with the largest group containing over 300,000 people. It's unknown how many are planning to converge in Paris, and organizers didn't mention a specific area for meeting in the capital, according to Euro News.

The social media pages did not make a specific request for protesters to block traffic and requested for the demonstrators to be respectful and not participate in violent or aggressive behavior, Euro News added.

Update 2/10/2022 2:56 p.m. ET: This story has been updated to provide additional details on the planned protests.

France Protesters Warned of Possible Jail Time
French authorities said participants in a "freedom convoy" could face jail time if they block roads in a planned protest in Paris against COVID-19 restrictions. Above, police arrest a protester during a march on Al Nakba Day on May 15, 2021, in Berlin. Adam Berry/Getty Images