Tens of thousands of people again demonstrated on the streets of France on Saturday against the government’s vaccination policy against COVID-19 amid concerns by legal groups about the anti-Semitic sentiment of the protest movement.
Saturday’s marches were called for the sixth consecutive weekend to fire the “health card” system announced by President Emmanuel Macron, which they consider an unfair restriction on the rights of the unvaccinated.
According to a system gradually introduced from mid-July, anyone wishing to enter a restaurant, theater, cinema, long-distance train or large shopping center must prove a vaccination or a negative test.
About 200 different demonstrations were called across the country, with some 9,500 people south of Montpellier, 4,000 east of Strasbourg and 3,400 in Bordeaux, according to local authorities.
At the head of the Paris March, people raised flags and banners that said “Freedom” and shouted “Macron! Macron!” We don’t want your ID! ”
The protest movement brought together conspiracy theorists, anti-vaxxers, former members of the anti-government “Yellow Vest” movement, as well as people concerned that the system was unfairly creating a two-tier society.
According to the Interior Ministry, approximately 200,000 people marched the previous weekends and the final summaries of Saturday’s demonstrations will be prepared in the evening.
Organizers say the actual number of previous weekends was twice that estimated by police.
The government insists that permission is needed to support the introduction of vaccination and prevent a fourth national blockade, with eight or nine out of 10 COVID-19 patients admitted to hospital without any harm.
According to a poll by the Ifop electoral group for the Journal du Dimanche last weekend, the majority of French people support the health card system and only a third agree with the protesters.
Concerns about anti-Semitism
From the beginning, the protest movement was marked by slogans and symbols condemned by Jewish groups and anti-racist activists.
Some protesters wore yellow stars similar to those forced by the Nazi regime to portray Jews during World War II, which led to the conviction of Holocaust survivors for offensive comparisons.
Others were photographed with posters that said “Who?” (Which means “Who?”), A codified reference to Jews accused of spreading Covid propaganda through the media and profiting from the vaccine industry.
“I find it remarkable how (anti-Semitism) is repeated and openly portrayed,” SOS Racism chief Dominique Sopo told AFP. “During the Yellow Jackets movement, it was expressed on the sidelines … now the people wearing these badges are not hiding and other protesters are not responding.”
In an editorial this week, the left-wing newspaper Le Monde condemned the rise in anti-Semitic behavior and described it as “a poison to society, a danger to all.”
“While far-right anti-Semitism is old, it seems at the moment it seems encouraged by the rise of conspiratorial thinking,” he added.
Tristan Mendes-France, a specialist in conspiracy movements, called COVID-19 “an accelerator of anti-Semitism, because we are constantly watching the tragedy.
“People who have fallen into the movement of online conspiracy theories are reminded daily of their anger and frustration because we are still talking about an epidemic. It’s like rubbing salt in an open wound.”
While the health card system is controversial, it effectively encourages people to apply for vaccination, as millions of people book appointments during the days announced on July 12th.
About 47 million people received at least one dose, or about 70 percent of the population, which is higher than in Germany and Italy and only slightly behind Britain.
The most severe COVID-19 hotspots are currently found in the French overseas territories, such as the Caribbean islands of Martinique and Guadeloupe, as well as in the Pacific islands of French Polynesia.
Polynesian authorities announced the tightening of restrictions on Saturday, when schools, restaurants and bars will close for two weeks, while the night curfew will be postponed from one hour to eight in the evening.
According to the head of the islands, Edouard Fritch, tourists were told to stay in their hotels on the islands, where the number of infections increased by more than 14 in two weeks.
France as a whole has reported about 22,000 new infections in the last 24 hours, according to the Ministry of Health.
(Aside from the title, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated source.)