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French riot police battle with protesters in Paris this weekend. Screenshot from Ruptly

France: Thousands protest against ‘health pass’ for 9th weekend in a row

On Saturday, demonstrators took to the streets in the French capital for the ninth consecutive weekend to express their displeasure with the health passport policy of the Macron administration. The protest quickly degenerated into clashes with the police.

Published: September 12, 2021, 9:54 am

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    Four major demonstrations were planned for Saturday in Paris. In various parts of the city, crowds of people marched through the streets, surrounded by tightly knit barriers by police officers.

    Large police forces were deployed in Paris, particularly on the Champs-Elysees and Avenue Wagram to the north-west of the city, where a large gathering was announced. The total number of protesters was unclear, but police said they expected around 30 000 people to take to the city streets by lunchtime.

    On videos posted on social media, the streets and boulevards of Paris were flooded with dense crowds.

    Tensions quickly boiled over during the demonstrations, with footage on social media showing demonstrators battling with police officers who had tried to stop them. Another video showed the crowd attacking the police with various items. The police responded with tear gas and batons.

    Clashes occurred, especially near the Champs-Elysees, when police prevented participants in one of the demonstrations from entering the avenue, French media reported.

    Saturday was the ninth weekend in a row that protests took place. The protests began in mid-July after President Emmanuel Macron’s administration introduced a system requiring the submission of a vaccination certificate or a negative Covid-19 test for visiting restaurants, theaters, cinemas and shopping malls, and for traveling on a long-distance train.

    Government measures also included compulsory vaccination for medical professionals, which some hospital staff rejected. The government insisted that the measures were necessary to encourage people to get vaccinated and avoid further closures.

    The French media had previously reported that the health passport was supported by at least 67 percent of the population. However, opposition to the measure remains high. Around 200 demonstrations against the measure were planned across France for Saturday. The police expected up to 170 000 participants at such rallies nationwide, they stated earlier.

    According to the French Interior Ministry, around 140 000 people took part in the demonstrations last Saturday. Some 76 arrests were recorded in the capital.

    The Ministry claimed that mobilization was declining, but did not allude to police being attacked by the demonstrators, with police vehicles forced to vacate their stations.

    Biker police from the BRAVM (Motorized Violent Action Repression Brigade) were also numerous on site. In front of the Council of State, rue de Rivoli, a dozen police officers were surrounded. “A lot of people and a lot of ‘morons’ who provoke colleagues,” a police source commented. As reported by Le Parisien, three members of the security forces were injured. But demonstrators accused the police of being too violent for no reason.

    In Paris, in front of the Ministry of Health, several hundred caregivers and firefighters gathered to denounce the health pass which will come into force on September 15. After this date, hospital and nursing home employees will have to prove that they have received at least one injection, under penalty of being suspended without pay. “But what democratic country does that?” said Maria, a nurse. “No really, it’s just despicable.”

    Like many health professionals present, she threw her white coat on the ground in protest. “I worked while being positive for Covid, asymptomatic. I went to work every day, even 40-45 hours a week, that didn’t pose a problem for anyone, really anyone. And today because I don’t have this injection, they ask me to leave,” said Nathalie, a hospital nurse.

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