NewsFrance sees 5th weekend of protests against Macron Covid...

France sees 5th weekend of protests against Macron Covid pass


Paris, France: More than 200,000 protesters marched across France on Saturday against a health pass championed by President Emmanuel Macron to defeat Covid-19, even though the measure has already been applied.

The interior ministry said a total of 214,845 people, including nearly 14,000 in Paris, took part in the nationwide protests, down by about 22,000 from last weekend, but still strong for the fifth straight weekend.

Macron sees the health pass — which makes vaccination essential to carry on with routine activities like sipping a coffee in a cafe or traveling on a train — as the key to emerging from the pandemic and avoiding further lockdowns.

But protesters — an eclectic mix of far-right, yellow vest anti-inequality activists, anti-vaxxers and civil liberties campaigners — say that the policy encroaches on the basic freedoms so prized by the French.

Two separate protests were taking place in Paris — in a sign of the inability of the protesters to fully unite — with slogans like “free France!”, “stop the corona-madness” or “yes to the freedom to choose” being chanted and brandished.

Yann Fontaine, 30, who works in a notary office, said he believed the health pass is a measure that “kills freedom and is segregationist”.

Unlike in the yellow vests demonstrations from 2018, there have been no reports of major incidents in these protests. But the numbers of protesters remain strong and show no sign of diminishing.

About 237,000 people turned out last Saturday across France, including 17,000 in Paris, the interior ministry said, exceeding the 204,000 recorded the weekend before and numbers extremely unusual for protests at the height of the summer break.

Government defiant

Protesters accuse the government of downplaying the numbers taking to the streets. A collective called Le Nombre Jaune published a detailed breakdown city by city on Facebook in a bid to show the actual numbers last week were 415,000.

Other protests were taking place in cities, especially in the south, including Toulon, Montpellier, Nice, Marseille, and Perpignan, where numbers have sometimes exceeded those in Paris.

Macron, who faces re-election next year, has shown little patience with the demands of the protesters while his Health Minister Olivier Veran last week lashed out at a movement “about which we are talking far too much”.

Analysts have said Macron thrives on taking on a protest movement — as was the case with the yellow vests — as it plays well with his core centrist supporters but the government needs to be attentive to the fact the protests are continuing.

The government has also expressed alarm over anti-Semitic elements at some rallies and a teacher in the eastern city of Metz will go on trial next month accused of seeking to incite racial hatred after brandishing a sign at a protest last week that police said was clearly anti-Semitic.

Paris police chief Didier Lallement tweeted that he alerted the legal system as required about “anti-semitic signs brandished” again on Saturday during a protest in Paris.

Implemented on Monday, the regulations make it obligatory to have either a full course of vaccination against Covid-19, a negative test or be recently recovered from the virus to enjoy routine activities like eating at a restaurant or a cafe or travelling by inter-city train.

The pass has already been required since July 21 to visit cultural venues such as cinemas, theatres, and museums. Its extension was approved by France’s Constitutional Council earlier this month.

The vaccine rollout has gathered steam in France since the health pass plan was announced and the government wants 50 million people to have received at least one jab by the end of August.

This comes as the country sees a fourth virus wave.

In the last week, the health authorities said, 5,298 more people have been hospitalized with Covid-19, up from 4,574 the previous week.

AFP is a leading global news agency for comprehensive, verified coverage of events shaping the world.


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