PARIS — A total of 160,000 people protested today across France, the interior ministry says, angered at the country’s COVID health pass system, which they say unfairly restricts the unvaccinated.
By early evening, the authorities have logged 222 separate protest actions, including 14,500 people who turned out in Paris.
Sixteen people were arrested and three police officers slightly injured, in what was the seventh consecutive weekend of COVID protests.
“The vaccine isn’t the solution,” says retiree Helene Vierondeels, who attended a right-wing protest in Paris.
“We should rather be stopping the closures of hospital beds and continuing the barrier measures,” she adds.
In Bordeaux, several protesters say that they are refusing to get their children vaccinated, just days before the start of the new school year.
“We aren’t laboratory rats,” says one 11-year-old boy who was marching with his father.
“We live in a free country, there are no figures that justify mass vaccinations,” his father says, likening the increased pressure to vaccinate to rape.
Under the COVID pass system, introduced progressively since mid-July, anyone wishing to enter a restaurant, theatrer, cinema, long-distance train, or large shopping center must show proof of vaccination or a negative test.
The government insists that the pass is necessary to encourage vaccination uptake and avoid a fourth national lockdown, with the unvaccinated accounting for most of the COVID-19 patients admitted to hospital.
Today’s overall figure was slightly down from the 175,000 protesters who turned out the previous weekend.