PARIS (AP) – Thousands of people protested against France’s special virus as they passed through Paris and other French cities on Saturday. Most of the protests were peaceful, but some in Paris clashed with riot police, who fired tear gas.
Some 3,000 security forces have deployed around the French capital for a third weekend of protests against the pass that will soon be needed to enter restaurants and other places. Police have taken up posts along the Champs-Elysées in Paris to guard against an invasion of the famous avenue.
With the rise in viral infections and the rise in hospitalizations, French lawmakers have passed a bill requiring the laissez-passer in most places by August 9. Polls show that a majority of French people support the laissez-passer, but some are categorically opposed. The pass requires a vaccination or rapid negative test or proof of recent recovery from COVID-19 and requires vaccines for all healthcare workers by mid-September.
For anti-pass protesters, “freedom” was the slogan of the day.
Hager Ameur, a 37-year-old nurse, said she resigned her post, accusing the government of using a form of “blackmail”.
“I think we shouldn’t be told what to do,” she told The Associated Press, adding that French medical workers during the first wave of COVID-19 were pretty badly treated. “And now all of a sudden we’re being told that if we don’t get vaccinated, it’s our fault that people are infected. I think it’s sickening.
Tensions erupted outside the famous Moulin Rouge nightclub in northern Paris during what appeared to be the biggest protest. Lines of police clashed with protesters in close clashes during the march. The police used their fists on several occasions.
As protesters headed east and some police bombarded objects, police fired tear gas into the crowd, plumes of smoke filling the sky. A protester was seen with a bleeding head and a police officer was carried away by colleagues. Three officers were injured, French press said, citing police. Police, again responding to rowdy crowds, also shot a water cannon at protesters as the march ended in the Bastille.
A calmer march was led by the former high lieutenant of far-right leader Marine Le Pen, who left to form his own small anti-EU party. But Florian Philippot’s new cause, against the virus, seems much more popular. His contingent of hundreds of people marched on Saturday towards the Ministry of Health.
Among those who were not present this week was François Asselineau, leader of another small anti-EU party, the Popular Republican Union, and an ardent activist against the health pass, which fell with COVID-19. In a video posted on his party’s website, Asselineau, who was not hospitalized, called on the population to denounce the “absurd, unfair and completely liberticidal” health pass.
The French authorities are implementing the health pass because the highly contagious delta variant is making a big breakthrough. More than 24,000 new cases a day were confirmed as of Friday evening – up from just a few thousand cases a day earlier this month.
The government’s announcement of the entry into force of the health passport on August 9 prompted many unvaccinated French people to register for vaccines so that their social life was not interrupted during the summer vacation season. The vaccines are now available in a wide variety of places, including some beaches. More than 52% of the French population has been vaccinated.
About 112,000 people have died from the virus in France since the start of the pandemic.
Patrick Hermansen and Michel Euler in Paris contributed to it.
Follow all of AP’s stories on the global pandemic at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic.