More than 100,000 people across France protested on Saturday over what they say are government plans to further restrict the rights of the unvaccinated, days after French President Emmanuel Macron vowed to “piss off” those refusing the jab.
The turnout was four times higher than the attendance at a Dec. 18 protest, in which 25,500 people marched across the country, according to government estimates.
The protesters oppose a planned law that would require individuals to prove they are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 before they can eat out, travel on inter-city trains or attend cultural events.
France’s lower house of parliament on Thursday passed the controversial bill in a first reading. The government has said it expects the new requirements to be implemented by Jan. 15, although lawmakers in the Senate could delay the process.
Officials at the French Ministry of the Interior said that 105,200 people participated in Saturday’s protests, 18,000 of them in the capital, Paris, where police reported 10 arrests and that three officers were slightly injured.
Elsewhere there were 24 arrests and seven police officers lightly injured, the ministry said.
Among the larger demonstrations, about 6,000 people turned out in Toulon, while in Montpellier police used tear gas during clashes with protesters.
France recorded 303,669 new COVID-19 cases on Saturday amid mounting pressure on hospitals.
The Paris protesters, many of them unmasked, braved the cold and rain, brandishing placards emblazoned with the word “truth” and “No to vaccine passes.”
Others took aim at Macron, using the same coarse language he employed in his attack on people holding out against vaccination earlier in the week.
Macron on Friday said that he firmly stood by controversial remarks he made on Tuesday, when he said he wanted to “piss off” people who remained unvaccinated against COVID-19 until they accept shots.
The earthy language and uncompromising approach provoked uproar in French media and from opponents.
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