Violent clashes in France at protests against Covid health passes

Confrontations with police as more than 200,000 demonstrators take to the streets, including 14,000 in Paris.

A protester against Covid-19 health passes in Paris, where tear gas was fired during confrontations between police and demonstrators. EPA
Beta V.1.0 - Powered by automated translation

Violent clashes broke out in Paris on Saturday as protesters campaigning against anti-Covid restrictions converged on the French capital for a national day of action.

Tensions flared near the famous Moulin Rouge club in the Montmartre district, where lines of police confronted demonstrators, and near the Place de la Republique, where tear gas was fired.

Protesters were seen with cuts and three police officers were injured in clashes. The Interior Ministry said 19 people were arrested, including 10 in Paris.

About 14,240 people marched in the capital, among a total of 204,000 demonstrators across the country, the ministry said.

In southern city Montpellier, there were 10,000 protesters – double the number at a similar rally last weekend. In Mediterranean port city Marseille, 4,800 gathered to demonstrate.

About 3,000 security forces personnel were deployed around Paris for the third weekend of protests against the health pass that will be needed soon to enter public spaces such as restaurants, cinemas, museums and trains.

Police took up posts along the Champs-Elysees to guard against an invasion of the famed avenue.

With Covid-19 infections surging and hospitalisations rising, the French Parliament has passed a bill requiring the pass be used in most public places from August 9.

Opinion polls show a majority of French support the pass, but others are vehemently opposed.

The pass requires a vaccination or a quick negative test or proof of a recent recovery from Covid-19 and mandates vaccine shots for all health care workers by mid-September.

Riot police walk with shields in Paris. AFP

For anti-pass demonstrators, “liberty” was the slogan of the day.

Hager Ameur, a 37-year-old nurse, said she resigned from her job, accusing the government of using a form of “blackmail”.

“I think that we mustn’t be told what to do,” she said. “And now, suddenly we are [also] told that if we don’t get vaccinated it is our fault that people are contaminated. I think it is sickening.”

French authorities are implementing the health pass because the highly contagious Delta variant is making strong inroads.

More than 24,000 new daily cases were confirmed on Friday, compared to just a few thousand cases a day at the start of July.

About 112,000 people have died of the virus in France since the start of the pandemic.

Updated: July 31, 2021, 7:31 PM