PARIS (Dispatches) – Hundreds and thousands of protesters took to the streets of Paris on Saturday to once again demand the end of vaccine passports, or the “Pass Sanitaire”, as a requirement for travel and entry to hospitality venues.
Armored French police armed with shields stood ahead of crowds of protesters in an attempt to slow and control their movements around the capital as violence broke out once again between demonstrators and police. French authorities said around 200,000 people protested the passports last weekend with some suggesting this weekend’s figures to be much higher.
On Saturday, protesters rallied through the streets of Paris, Marseille, Nice, Montpellier and other towns waving placards reading “Pass=Apartheid” and chanting “Freedom, freedom”.
French President Emmanuel Macron has shown no signs of easing up the restrictions with the Pass Sanitaire seeing further rules implemented over the coming weeks.
At first, venues like cinemas, museums and other crowded indoor venues required proof of vaccination or a negative test to gain entry.
This was extended to hospitality venues on August 9 with French police actively enforcing the rules by visiting random restaurants and checking documentation.
Those travelling long-distance by bus or train are also required to prove vaccination or a negative test unless it is a medical emergency.
But from August 30, those who work in industries where they have a public-facing role is required to have the pass or will face suspension without pay.
The end of free PCR tests was also introduced to urge people to get the vaccine rather than continually test themselves.
Police attempted to control large crowds by using shields and lines of police to direct them around the capital. However, footage showed police quickly struggled and had to resort to using tear gas to disperse crowds.
Protesters responded by throwing bottles and other projectiles at them as they continued singing and chanting against vaccine passports.
French Health Minister Olivier Veran wrote to health workers who have seen violence directed their way.
The French Health Ministry claims 22 health sites, including 15 vaccine centers, have been targeted and vandalized by protesters.
Authorities estimated the 200+ rallies ongoing in the country would total around 250,000 demonstrators.
Among the protesters are remnants of the anti-government “Yellow Vest” movement that shook Macron’s leadership during 2018-2019, and also other citizens who are anti-vaccine or consider the health pass to be discriminatory.