Groups opposed to an extension of France's vaccination requirements, validated by the country's Constitutional Council, prepared to take to the streets of various French towns on Saturday.
The protests are the fourth consecutive weekend demonstrations against the measures in France, and organisers said they would be held in over 150 cities.
The latest marches come on the heels of an appeal on Friday by President Emmanuel Macron, urging people to get vaccinated against the coronavirus. Over 44 million French people, 65.9% of the population, have already had a first dose.
The bill to extend health requirements aimed at curbing the spread of the virus was approved in Parliament on 25 July and validated on Thursday by the Constitutional Council. The law, promulgated on Friday in the French Official Gazette, takes effect on Monday.
It requires all health workers to be vaccinated. Anyone wishing to enter a restaurant, showroom or salon needs to present a vaccination certificate, a negative PCR test or proof that they have recovered from the virus. The same goes for people wishing to go on long plane, train or bus journeys.
Following the validation of the measure by the Constitutional Council, a few hundred protesters took to the streets of Paris on Thursday evening, shouting “Macron, we don’t want your (health) pass.”
“This is a sledgehammer blow,” said Nejeh Ben Farhat, a 42-year-old ‘Yellow Vest’ from Paris. “You get the impression that a large part of the population has accepted its fate.”
Many of the protesters say they refuse to be guinea pigs for new vaccines. Others have already been vaccinated, but are specifically against the imposition of the health pass, which they term a “disguised vaccine obligation” and see as instituting a “society of control.”
The Ministry of the Interior counted 204,000 demonstrators in various French cities on 31 July, up from 161,000 on the previous Saturday. “We generally expect the same number of demonstrators" this Saturday, a police source said.
Like last week, the biggest crowds are expected to be in Provence-Alpes-Côtes d'Azur, particularly in Toulon, Montpellier and Nice.
In Marseille, a demonstration called by SUD and fire service personnel, and only partially declared, was scheduled to take off at 2:00 PM from the Vieux-Port. In Lyon, two calls for demonstrations, also starting at 2:00 PM, have been declared.
About a dozen protests have been scheduled for Hauts-de-France, Aube and Ardennes, namely in Lille, Abbeville, Reims and Dunkirk.
Last weekend’s demonstrations were marred, at times, by tense face-offs between protesters and security forces, punctuated with invectives and even insults against the media.
In Montpellier, demonstrators turned against a pharmacist doing Covid-19 testing, with some calling him a “collaborator” and a “murderer.”
The Brussels Times