Thousands of people have protested in Paris and other French cities against a mandatory coronavirus sanitation pass for entry into a wide range of public places, introduced by the government while beating the fourth wave of infections.
About 3,000 security forces deployed around the French capital on Saturday for a third weekend of protests against the step that will be needed to enter restaurants and other places. Police in riot gear stormed a rally on Friday, removing hundreds of protesters by truck. Police in riot gear stormed a rally on Friday, removing hundreds of protesters by truck.
Most of the demonstrations were peaceful but some in Paris clashed with riot police, who fired tear gas.
“We are creating a segregated society and I think it’s incredible to do that in the country of human rights,” Anne, a professor who was protesting in Paris, told Reuters. She refused to give her last name.
“So I took the road; I have never protested before in my life. I think our freedom is in danger. “
With growing virus infections and growing hospitals, French lawmakers have passed a bill requiring passage in most places by Aug. 9.
Surveys show that the majority of French people support the move, but some French people are firmly opposed.
The step requires vaccinations or a rapid negative test or proof of a recent recovery from COVID-19 and imposes vaccinations for all health care workers by mid-September.
For anti-pass protesters, “freedom” was the slogan of the day.
Hager Ameur, a 37-year-old nurse, said she had resigned from her job, accusing the government of using a form of “blackmail”.
“I don’t think we need to say what to do,” he told the Associated Press, adding that medical workers during the first wave of COVID-19 were quite mistreated. “And now, all of a sudden, they tell us that if we don’t get vaccinated, it’s our fault that people are contaminated.” I think it’s annoying. “
Tensions erupted in front of the famous Moulin Rouge nightclub in northern Paris during what appeared to be the largest demonstration. Police in riot gear stormed a rally on Friday, removing hundreds of protesters by truck. Police have used his fists on several occasions.
As the marchers headed east, police fired tear gas at the crowd, plumes of smoke filling the sky. A male protester was seen in chaos with his head bleeding.
Ulrich Bruckner, a professor of European studies at Stanford University in Berlin, said there were reasons to “be concerned [over COVID restrictions], but there are different ways to express this. ”
“On the one hand, it is essential that every citizen be able to exercise his or her rights to freedom, which includes freedom of expression and freedom of demonstration,” Bruckner told Al Jazeera.
“On the other hand the State needs to protect itself and its system by limiting those freedoms if they are used against the system,” he said.
“And we see a lot of orchestrated forms of trying to undermine the state or provoke the police, that’s why today the demonstration in Berlin was canceled because it was clear that it was not freedom of expression but to provoke the police,” he said. He said. added.
In terms of the reasons for the protests, Bruckner said the French had read the implementation of the new rules as a violation of equality.
“[In] In France in particular, people read [these rules] as a violation of equality … and no one is a second-class citizen just because she or he decides against vaccination, ”he added.
Paul Brennan, of Al Jazeera, said people on the streets of France “are a small but rather vocal contingent of the population.”
“Some are against the risks of blood clots from vaccines. Others don’t care about vaccines, but they don’t like being told what to do, they don’t like being forced to have one,” he said. said Brennan.
“[But] it seems that President Macron won this fight with the French public for it. Three weeks ago, just over 40 percent of the public had had both vaccines. The latest data I’ve seen since yesterday is now up to 52 per cent, so a big 12 per cent jump in people, albeit reluctantly, deciding to go for the jab, ”he added.
Police estimated about 13,500 people demonstrated in the streets of Paris, a police spokesman told Reuters news agency.
About 3,000 police officers have been deployed in the capital, with anti-riot agents trying to keep protesters on authorized routes.
Authorities tried to avoid a repeat of the events last week when clashes between police and protesters erupted over the Champs-Elysees.
Protesters were also in other cities such as Marseille, Lyon, Montpelier, Nantes and Toulouse, shouting “Freedom!” and “No to the health pass!”
More than 111,800 people have died of coronavirus in France since the beginning of the pandemic.