Far right wingers and others march against French virus rules

Far-right activists and members of France’s Yellow West movement protest against new virus measures

PARIS – Far-right activists and members of France’s yellow vest movement protested on Saturday against a bill that requires everyone to enter restaurants and other places to have a special virus pass and for all health care workers. For COVID-19 vaccination is mandatory.

Legislators in France’s Senate were debating the bill on Saturday after parliament’s lower house approved it on Friday, as virus infections and hospitalizations continue to rise. The French government is trying to ramp up vaccinations to protect vulnerable populations and hospitals and avoid new lockdowns.

Most French adults are fully vaccinated and surveys indicate that most French people support the new measures. But not everyone.

“Freedom! Freedom!” Gathered in the Bastille Plaza and marched through eastern Paris in one of several demonstrations on Saturday around France. Thousands attended a gathering across the Seine River from the Eiffel Tower organized by a former top official in Marine Le Pen’s anti-immigrant party.

While most of the demonstrators were calm, tensions built up on the margins of the Bastille March. After throwing a chair at an officer, the riot police fired tear gas shells at the marchers. Other projectiles can also be seen in the video of the incident.

Many marchers focused their anger on a French “health pass” required to enter museums, movie theaters and tourist sites. The bill under debate would expand the pass requirement to all restaurants and bars in France and some other places. To receive the pass, people need to be fully vaccinated, have a recent negative test or have evidence that they have recently recovered from the virus.

Lawmakers have debated the measure amid divisions over how far to go in implementing health passes or compulsory vaccinations.

Last weekend, more than 100,000 people protested around France against the measures. They included far-right politicians and activists as well as others who were angry with President Emmanuel Macron for various reasons.

Remaining members of France’s yellow vest movement, largely from political extremes, are using the virus bill to rekindle its flame. The movement began in 2018 as a widespread uprising against perceived economic injustice and led to months of protests marked by violence between protesters and police, but subsided after the French government addressed many of the protesters’ concerns.


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