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Far-right among demonstrators at march against French COVID rules

Prosters stand amidst tear gas smoke on the Champs Elysees avenue during clashes on the sidelines of a demonstration against the compulsory vaccination for certain workers and the mandatory use of the health pass called by the French government in Paris, on July 24, 2021. (Sameer Al-Doumy/AFP)
Prosters stand amidst tear gas smoke on the Champs Elysees avenue during clashes on the sidelines of a demonstration against the compulsory vaccination for certain workers and the mandatory use of the health pass called by the French government in Paris, on July 24, 2021. (Sameer Al-Doumy/AFP)

PARIS — Far-right activists and members of France’s yellow vest movement protested on Saturday against a bill requiring everyone to have a special virus pass to enter restaurants and other venues and mandating COVID-19 vaccinations for all health care workers.

Legislators in France’s Senate were debating the bill on Saturday after the lower house of parliament approved it on Friday, as virus infections are spiking and hospitalizations are rising anew.

The French government is trying to speed up vaccinations to protect vulnerable populations and hospitals, and avoid new lockdowns.

Most French adults are fully vaccinated and polls indicate a majority of French people support the new measures. But not everyone.

Protesters chanting “Liberty! Liberty!” gathered at Bastille plaza and marched through eastern Paris in one of several demonstrations on Saturday around France.

Thousands also joined a gathering across the Seine River from the Eiffel Tower organized by a former top official in Marine Le Pen’s anti-immigration party.

While most protesters were calm, tensions erupted on the margins of the Bastille march. Riot police sprayed tear gas on marchers after someone threw a chair at an officer. Other projectiles could also be seen in a video of the incident.

Many marchers focused their anger on a French “health pass” that is 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 venues.

To get the pass, people need to be fully vaccinated, have a recent negative test or have proof they recently recovered from the virus.

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

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