Waving Canadian flags, French 'freedom convoy' gets underway

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NICE, France, Feb 9 (Reuters) - Protesters set out from southern France on Wednesday in what they call a "freedom convoy" that will converge on Paris and Brussels to demand an end to COVID-19 restrictions, inspired by demonstrators who have blocked a Canadian border crossing.

About 200 protesters assembled in a parking lot in Nice, on France's Mediterranean coast, with many displaying Canadian flags in a nod to the truckers in Canada who are protesting their government's COVID-19 restrictions. read more

The protesters in Nice said they planned to head first to Paris, then on to Brussels - headquarters of the European Union - to demand, among other things, the scrapping of rules barring people from public venues if they do not have a COVID-19 vaccination.

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"Lots of people don't understand why a vaccine pass is in force in France," said one man who was helping coordinate the convoy from Nice and who gave his name as Denis.

"Our work is to communicate to Europe that putting in place a health pass until 2023 is something the majority of our fellow citizens cannot understand," Denis said.

Not all of the people setting out from Nice planned to travel all the way to Paris or Brussels. The convoy was made up of motorcycles and private cars, but no trucks.

In the city of Perpignan, near France's border with Spain, around 200 people gathered to set off towards Paris as part of the "freedom convoy" movement.

Their convoy was made up of cars, some camper vans, and one heavy-goods vehicle.

"We are just tired of it all. We want to go where we want without being asked for a vaccine pass. At least with this action, I am doing something," said Nicolas Bourrat, an independent truck driver as he was about to hit the road.

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Additional reporting by Alexandre Minguez; writing by Christian Lowe; editing by Philippa Fletcher and Angus MacSwan

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