MONTREAL -- Thousands of protesters assembled near the Olympic Stadium in Montreal, many clad in white, protesting measures in place to curb the spread of COVID-19.

Health officials in the city were forced to close the vaccination site at the stadium after the call went out to protest, and dozens of vaccination appointments were rescheduled or moved to other clinics.

Montreal police (SPVM) officers handed out more than a dozen but less than a hundred tickets at the start of the march for violating mask and distancing health measures.

At around 4:30 p.m. the protest had mostly wound down, though police deployed tear gas against some of those who remained. 

The regional health authority said approximately 50 appointments are affected at the Big O, one of the city's largest vaccination sites.

"From the very beginning, this is not normal," said one protester clad in white wearing a mask. "The reaction of all governments in the west is absolutely not normal. First, they should leave people who are healthy in peace, and test and isolate those who are sick and treat them. There are a lot of good treatments that you can do at home."

The white getup was worn to mimic hazmat suits, and many of the protesters were not wearing masks.

"The government overreach has been absurd and it's time for us to stand up for our rights," said one protester who wasn't wearing a mask. "I'm for freedom. It's pretty simple. I'm for personal liberty."

According to a Facebook event, the "Quebec Debout" group organized the demonstration at noon at the stadium.

The Montreal protest is one of several related to the COVID-19 health measures planned for May 1 throughout Quebec.

On Friday, Quebec's health minister, Christian Dube, said it was "extremely unfortunate" that appointments will have to be moved to other clinics to accommodate the people who are being affected.  

-- this is a developing story that will be updated.