Following French President Emmanuel Macron's announcements earlier this week regarding anti-covid vaccination, angered demonstrators clashed with police all over the country Wednesday during the Bastille Day holiday.
Macron had said in a broadcast message that getting the two-shot treatment would be mandatory for all healthcare workers and that a green-pass was to be required as of next month to be admitted at bars, restaurants, shows, shopping malls and almost for every activity of the so-called normal life.
Those requirements are perceived by a large portion of French citizens as an invasion of individual privacy and freedom. Therefore, another anniversary of the French Revolution which was based on the ideals of Liberty, Equality and Fraternity, came as no surprise.
According to French police, nearly 20,000 people demonstrated in twenty cities against the extension of the health pass announced on Monday by Macron, calling his government “a dictatorship.
Some mobilizations began in the morning when the military parade was being held on the famous Avenue des Champs-Élysées, under the gaze of the Head of State who presided over these festivities for the last time in his five-year term.
Some of these measures are expected by French authorities to push people who have hitherto been hesitant or suspicious to finally agree to get vaccinated. Since the announcements, more than 2 million appointments for vaccination were made on the Doctolib website.
In Paris, several processions brought together, according to the Ministry of the Interior, 2,250 people at the height of the demonstrations, part of the places de République and Clichy. Later in the day, a few incidents were reported when people threw stones and objects at the police while chanting “against the dictatorship” and “against the sanitary pass.”
A total of 53 protests took place in several cities nationwide, according to the Interior Ministry. More than 19,000 demonstrators claimed they were “not Guinea pigs” and chanted Liberty, freedom! No to compulsory vaccination!
Some of the protesters wore the already classic yellow vests which represent opposition to Macron.
Any operator of a public space who fails to request the health pass from customers will be subject to a fine of up to 45,000 euros and one year in prison, according to the bill announced by Macron.
Some press reports have indicated that around 76% of France's population agrees with mandatory vaccination for health care staff, but those opposing compulsory inoculation claim they are near 40%.
The demonstrators are unhappy at the decision announced on Monday to force health workers to get vaccinated and carry a vaccine pass for most public places. Unvaccinated people would be required a negative test result to enter restaurants.
“Macron plays on fears, it's revolting. I know people who will now get vaccinated just so that they can take their children to the movies, not to protect others from serious forms of Covid, a demonstrator was quoted by French media as saying.
The French government on Tuesday defended its decision to impose Covid tests for unvaccinated people who want to eat in restaurants or take long-distance trips, as the country looks to avoid a surge in more contagious Delta cases.
According to an opinion poll published Tuesday, the new safety measures have a large majority of approval amongst French people. Around 35.5 million people -- just over half of France's population -- have received at least one vaccine dose so far. At the start of the pandemic, France had some of the highest levels of vaccine scepticism in the developed world.
In Greece, meanwhile, around 4,000 people gathered later Wednesday in central Athens to protest against new virus measures announced by Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis. We say no! and Resign chanted the demonstrators in protest at the measures being put in place for non-vaccinated people.
Among the countries which already require a health pass to access restaurants, bars, museums, and also beauty salons are Denmark, which in April of this year launched its Coronaps, the App that certifies whether a person had a negative test result in the last 72 hours, has been vaccinated or has developed antibodies from a previous infection. In Europe, similar measures are in force in Austria and Latvia.