The third weekend in a row is demonstrating against the government’s corona policy in France. Could the protesters pose a threat to President Macron? Some of the protests bring back bad memories.
Again there have been mass protests in France against tightening the corona rules. According to the Interior Ministry, around 204,000 people took to the streets on Saturday to demonstrate against compulsory vaccination for health workers and an expansion of the corona proof requirement.
There were therefore more than 180 protests across the country. There were occasional riots. TV pictures showed how the police used water cannons in Paris. According to the Interior Ministry, 19 people were arrested. Three police officers were injured during the protests in Paris.
France is fighting the fourth corona wave
It is the third weekend in a row that there are major corona protests across the country. More than 160,000 people took part in them last Saturday. France is currently fighting a fourth corona wave. Head of state Emmanuel Macron announced the new, stricter hygiene regulations in mid-July in view of the increasing number of infections.
Parliament approved the controversial innovations earlier this week after heated debates. The last hurdle will have to be overcome by the new law on Thursday, when the Constitutional Council, convened by Prime Minister Jean Castex, will respond to the severe criticism.
Many currents represented
The obligation to vaccinate in the healthcare sector and the expansion of the obligation to provide evidence of a negative corona test, recovery or vaccination not only affect vaccination opponents and corona deniers. So people from different currents mixed at the demonstrations.
This heterogeneity and the size of the nationwide protests are also fueling fears in France of a new “yellow vest” movement or a resurgence of their protests. The “Gilets Jaunes” (“Yellow Vests”) started their demonstrations in 2018 as a regional movement against the increase in petrol prices. Her subjects quickly expanded into a criticism of the reform policies of the central government and President Macron.
Corona protest in Paris: protesters hold up signs with the word “freedom”. (Source: Michel Euler / AP / dpa)
The protests had repeatedly resulted in devastation and violence, including on the Parisian boulevard Champs-Élysées. A demonstration of the anti-corona protests on the street was accompanied by a significant police presence on Saturday.
Opposition calls on Macron to back down
The leader of the right-wing extremist party Rassemblement National (formerly: Front National), Marine Le Pen, called on the government on Twitter to take the protests seriously. There is still time to back down. The leading left-wing politician Jean-Luc Mélenchon also wrote that the protests had to be respected and understood.
Although 204,000 protesters in the middle of the holiday season in France are a respectable number and the demonstrations are growing in size from week to week, it remains to be seen whether the protests will continue. The law with the new regulations is to come into force on August 9th, so proof of having visited bars, cafés, restaurants and trips by long-distance train will be valid in just over a week.
Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin also said that the numbers had to be put into perspective. “If I draw a parallel with the four million people who were vaccinated as a result of the president’s speech, one finds that the demonstrators are not the majority,” the newspaper “Le Parisien” quoted him as saying.
Vaccination call had an effect
In fact, both vaccination registrations and the number of doses injected daily had skyrocketed after Macron’s announcement. Around 62 percent of people in France are now vaccinated against the coronavirus at least once. More than half of the population is fully vaccinated.
Nevertheless, the health situation remains tense. Most recently, the number of new infections per 100,000 people nationwide was around 214 within a week. In some areas, for example on the border with Spain or in northern Corsica, even stricter rules now apply. In some cases, shops and restaurants have to close earlier and people also have to wear masks outdoors.