Police have intercepted hundreds of vehicles trying to enter Paris as part of a protest against France’s coronavirus regulations.
Tear gas was fired in the city as demonstrators defied an order banning the “Freedom Convoy”.
Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin said more than 300 tickets had been handed out and 54 people arrested.
Authorities have deployed more than 7,000 officers over the next three days in a bid to stop the demonstrators.
Despite those efforts, some vehicles managed to arrive at the Arc de Triomphe in the city, and tear gas was fired at demonstrators on the nearby Champs-Élysées avenue.
The groups were inspired by the self-styled Canadian “Freedom Convoy” which has disrupted trade on the US border and occupied streets in Ottawa. Similar demonstrations have started to spread around the world.
Austria and Belgium have banned such convoys from entering their capitals, with similar demonstrations also emerging in Australia, New Zealand and the Netherlands.
A video posted online by a journalist and shared by the police showed officers halting lines of vehicles on the city’s ring road. Police close to the Arc de Triomphe were seen diverting camper vans and other vehicles away from the area.
— Préfecture de Police (@prefpolice) February 12, 2022
Prime Minister Jean Castex said on Friday that authorities would be “very firm” if the group tried to block the French capital.
“The right to demonstrate and to have an opinion are a constitutionally guaranteed right in our republic and in our democracy. The right to block others or prevent coming and going is not,” he told France 2.
Mr Castex also objected to the demonstrators calling themselves a “Freedom Convoy”.
The word freedom should not be associated with “virulent attacks against vaccination”, he said, because freedom is not “contaminating others”.
Demonstrators who oppose France’s Covid pass, which requires people to show proof of vaccination before entering public venues, want to gather and blockade the capital across the weekend – suggesting such scenes may be repeated Sunday.
Convoys have organised online and appear to come from various political and ideological backgrounds, making it difficult to estimate how many vehicles might arrive in Paris each day. They have also drawn in others angry at rising prices in France.
Some plan to continue on to Brussels, home of many European Union institutions, for further demonstrations on Monday. City officials there have also banned the planned demonstration.