Anti-vaccine fanatics keep protesting like crazy in France
Published: Aug 22, 2021 06:08 PM
A protester holds a sign reading

A protester holds a sign reading "No to the health pass - Macron to the Gulag" during a demonstration against the mandatory COVID-19 health pass to access most of the public space, in Paris on Saturday. Photo: AFP

Tens of thousands of people demonstrated in the streets of France again on Saturday against the government's COVID-19 vaccination policies amid concern from rights groups about anti-Semitic sentiment in the protest movement.

Saturday's marches were called for the sixth weekend in a row to denounce a "health pass" system announced by President Emmanuel Macron that they say unfairly restricts the rights of the unvaccinated.

The Ministry of the Interior put the number of people turning out at around 175,000 at 220 demonstrations nationwide, including 14,700 in Paris, as of 1900 GMT.   

Under the new pass system, introduced progressively since mid-July, anyone wishing to enter a restaurant, theater, long-distance train, or large shopping center must show proof of vaccination or a negative test.

At the head of the Paris march, people held up flags and banners with the word "Liberty" on them and shouted: "Macron! We don't want your pass!" 

The protest movement has brought together conspiracy theorists, anti-vaxxers, former members of the "Yellow Vest" anti-government movement, as well as people concerned that the system unfairly creates a two-tier society.

Around 200,000 people have marched in previous weekends, according to interior ministry figures. 

The government insists the pass is necessary to encourage vaccination uptake and avoid a fourth national lockdown, with unvaccinated making up eight or nine out of every 10 COVID-19 patients admitted to hospital.