French police confront anti-COVID protesters in Paris

French police confront anti-COVID protesters in Paris

Thousands of people have demonstrated in Paris and other French cities against a compulsory coronavirus health pass for entry into a wide range of public places, introduced by the government as it fights the fourth wave of infections.
Some 3,000 security forces deployed around the French capital on Saturday for a third weekend of protests against the pass that will 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 by violent protesters.

Most of the protests 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 amazing to do this in the land of human rights,” Anne, a teacher who was protesting in Paris, told Reuters news agency. She refused to give her last name.

“So I took to the street; I have never protested in my life. I think our freedom is in danger.

As viral infections increase and hospitalizations increase, French lawmakers have passed a bill requiring the pass in most places starting August 9.

Polls show that a majority of French people support the past, but some French people categorically oppose it.

The pass requires vaccinations or a rapid negative test or proof of a recent recovery from COVID-19 and makes it mandatory to vaccinate 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 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 the protesters made their way east, police fired tear gas at the crowd, plumes of smoke filling the sky. A protester was seen in chaos with a bleeding head.

Ulrich Bruckner, professor of European studies at Stanford University in Berlin, said there was reason to “be concerned. [over COVID restrictions], but there are different ways to express it ”.

“On the one hand, it is of the utmost importance that every citizen can make use of their freedom rights, which include freedom of expression and the freedom to demonstrate,” Bruckner told Al Jazeera.

“On the other hand, the state must protect itself and its system by restricting these 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, which is why today the demonstration in Berlin was called off because it was clear that it was not freedom. expression but to provoke the police, ”he said. added.

Regarding the motives for the protests, Bruckner said the French interpret the implementation of new rules as a violation of equality.

« [In] France in particular, people are reading [these rules] as a violation of equality… and no one is a second-class citizen just because he or she decides not to get the vaccine, ”he added.

Protesters wave French flags and hold placards stating “Liberty” during a demonstration in Paris, France [Michel Euler/AP Photo]

Paul Brennan of Al Jazeera said that the people in the streets of France “are a small contingent of the population, but rather noisy”.

“Some people are against the risk of blood clots from vaccines. Others don’t care about vaccines but don’t like being told what to do, don’t like having to have one, ”said Brennan.

« [But] it seems that President Macron is winning this showdown with the French public on this subject. Three weeks ago, just over 40% of the population had received both vaccines. The latest data I saw yesterday now stands at 52%, so a big jump of 12% in people, albeit reluctantly deciding to go for the jab, ”he said. added.

Police estimated that around 13,500 people demonstrated in the streets of Paris, a police spokesperson told Reuters news agency.

Around 3,000 police officers were deployed in the capital, with riot control agents trying to keep protesters on authorized routes.

Authorities sought to avoid a repeat of events last week when clashes between police and protesters broke out on the Champs-Elysees.

Protesters were also out in other cities such as Marseille, Lyon, Montpellier, Nantes and Toulouse, shouting “Freedom! and “No to the health pass!

More than 111,800 people have died from the coronavirus in France since the start of the pandemic.


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