IN PICTURES: 160,000 protest in France against Covid rules

IN PICTURES: 160,000 protest in France against Covid rules
Protesters holding French flags and the fleur-de-lys royalist symbol take part in a rally called by the French nationalist party "Les Patriotes" (The Patriots) against the compulsory Covid-19 vaccination for certain workers and the mandatory use of the health pass, in Paris on August 28th, 2021. (Photo by Sameer Al-DOUMY / AFP)
A total of 160,000 people protested across France on Saturday, the interior ministry said, angered at the country's Covid health pass system which they say unfairly restricts the unvaccinated.

A demonstrator holds a placard reading “No to health pass” during a national day of protest against the compulsory Covid-19 vaccination for certain workers, and the mandatory use of the health pass called for by the French government to access most public spaces, in Montpellier, southern France, on August 28th, 2021. (Photo by Sylvain THOMAS / AFP)

By early evening on Saturday, the authorities had logged 222 separate protest actions, including 14,500 people who turned out in Paris.

French nationalist party “Les Patriotes” (The Patriots) leader Florian Philippot (C) flanked by lawyer Fabrice di Vizio (L) gestures on a platform during a rally called by his party against the compulsory Covid-19 vaccination for certain workers and the mandatory use of the health pass, near Ecole Militaire in Paris on August 28th, 2021. (Photo by Sameer Al-DOUMY / AFP)

Sixteen people were arrested and three police officers slightly injured in what was the seventh consecutive weekend of Covid protests.

Protesters holding French flags and signs reading ‘I am not a rhinoceros’ – referring to Romanian playwright Eugene Ionesco’s absurdist work ‘Rhinoceros’, which mocks herd mentality – during a rally called by the French nationalist party “Les Patriotes” (The Patriots). (Photo by Sameer Al-DOUMY / AFP)

“The vaccine isn’t the solution,” said retiree Helene Vierondeels, who attended a right-wing protest in Paris.

“We should instead be stopping the closures of hospital beds and continuing the barrier measures,” she added.

A demonstrator holds a placard reading “Macron has no children, he wants to steal ours” in Montpellier, southern France, on August 28th, 2021. (Photo by Sylvain THOMAS / AFP)

In Bordeaux, several protesters said they were refusing to get their children vaccinated, just days before the start of the new school year.

“We aren’t laboratory rats,” said one 11-year-old boy who was marching with his father.

A protester holds placard reading “conspiracy theorist” during a demonstration in Toulouse, southwestern France, on August 28th, 2021. (Photo by Frederic Scheiber / AFP)

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“We live in a free country, there are no figures that justify mass vaccinations,” his father said, likening the increased pressure to vaccinate to rape.

A demonstrator holds a placard reading “Firefighters are angry” in Montpellier on August 28th, 2021. (Photo by Sylvain THOMAS / AFP)

Under the Covid pass system, introduced progressively since mid-July, anyone wishing to enter a restaurant, theatre, cinema, long-distance train, or large shopping centre must show proof of vaccination or a negative test.

A protester holds a placard reading “Getting information from [France’s most-watched news channel] BFM TV is like going to a thalassotherapy centre in Fukushima” in Toulouse, southwestern France, on August 28th, 2021. (Photo by Frederic Scheiber / AFP)

The government insists the pass is necessary to encourage vaccination uptake and avoid a fourth national lockdown, with the unvaccinated accounting for most of the Covid-19 patients admitted to hospital.

Protesters hold a banner reading “Freedom of choice for health workers, of care for the patients” in Toulouse on August 28th, 2021. (Photo by Fred SCHEIBER / AFP)

Saturday’s overall figure was slightly down on the 175,000 protesters who turned out the previous weekend.

Around 200,000 people have marched on previous weekends, according to interior ministry figures.

A protester holds a placard reading “People in danger, Our children are not guinea pigs, MRNA vaccines are dangerous” in Toulouse on August 28th, 2021. (Photo by Frederic Scheiber / AFP)

Organisers claim the real numbers were double the estimates announced by police.

The protest movement has brought together conspiracy theorists, anti-vaxxers, former members of the “Yellow Vest” anti-government movement, as well as people concerned that the current system unfairly creates a two-tier society.

READ ALSO: Turnout, aims and support: 5 things to know about France’s anti-health pass protests


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