On Monday, after a fourth weekend of mass protests, the government proceeded with imposing the extension of the controversial health pass and restrictions on the unvaccinated, which are set to be in place until at least November.
Since July 21, the ‘pass sanitaire’ (health pass) has already been required in certain cultural institutions and venues, such as museums and cinemas. On Thursday, however, France’s Constitutional Council approved plans to extend its use. The court also ruled it constitutional to make the vaccine mandatory for health care workers and make the pass obligatory in bars and restaurants, as well as when taking flights or trains.
On Saturday, almost 250,000 French dissidents took to the streets to protest against the new measures, which they argue is an imposition on their personal freedom – a notion the country has supposedly championed since the 1789 revolution.
Videos have flooded social media showing protesters clashing with police, who fired tear gas to suppress the large crowds.
First tensions during the demonstration against the #PassSanitaire in #Paris.
The security forces use their gas in the face of demonstrators trying to force a cordon of the mobile gendarmerie.#GiletsJaunes #manifs7aout #manifestation7aout pic.twitter.com/yFVSCshL1x
— Ignorance, the root and stem of all evil (@ivan_8848) August 7, 2021
The number of unhappy French citizens taking to the streets to protest the health pass legislation has been steadily increasing over the last four weeks.
On July 24, there were approximately 160,000 protesters. Two weeks later, that figure has almost jumped by 100,000.
French Health Minister Olivier Veran told local media that “enough is enough” and has grouped French citizens who are against mandatory vaccinations and passes with being “anti-state.”
President Emmanuel Macron, who has been at the forefront of the health pass campaign, has resorted to publishing a video on TikTok to urge citizens to take the vaccine. “Get vaccinated. Get vaccinated. Get vaccinated,” he said on the social media platform aimed at teenagers.
“It’s a question of being a good citizen … our freedom is worth nothing if we infect our friends, neighbors or grandparents. To be free is to be responsible,” stated Macron.
But the French president has faced heightened scrutiny over his handling of the country’s fourth wave of Covid. Whilst such growing opposition is apparent from the expanding number of protesters demonstrating against the health pass, criticisms have also been raised over freedom of expression for dissidents.
In late July, Macron took legal action against a billboard owner who depicted the French leader as Adolf Hitler in a political satire opposing the president’s health pass restrictions. Whilst the billboards have been described as insensitive, the president’s attempts to silence Michel-Ange Flori have fueled France’s already rapidly growing division amid the pandemic.