Public anger at French government measures to curb the spread of Covid, which some people say are an attack on their liberty, has given the yellow vest protest movement fresh momentum, Reuters reports.
Last weekend, police estimated that 100,000 people joined protests against the measures – some of them under the banner of the gilets jaunes (yellow vests). Another round of protests is planned for this weekend.
An internal interior ministry report, seen by Reuters, described last week’s protests as “exceptional in their scale” and warned further large protests were likely.
Jerome Rodrigues, one of the movement’s best-known figures, who lost an eye when he was hit with a projectile at a protest two years ago, said the latest protests had attracted people beyond the usual yellow vest faithful.
“I’ve seen a lot of first-time protesters,” Rodrigues, who wears a prosthetic eye, said. “Healthcare workers, restaurant owners too, all kinds of people, children. If there’s one thing that can unite people today, it’s anger.”
Emmanuel Macron’s administration has submitted controversial proposed legislation to parliament which will stop people entering restaurants and bars without a “health pass” showing they had been vaccinated, have had a recent negative test or have immunity from Covid-19. Opponents say the state is, de facto, forcing people to get jabbed.
Mohamed Boukifa, a 40-year-old baker, joined Rodrigues at a yellow vest demonstration against the health pass in Paris on Wednesday. He said he had followed the yellow vests over social media but until now had never joined a demonstration.
“I’m not here because I’m against the vaccine” he said. “I’m here to defend our freedoms. We cannot be forced to get vaccinated.” He said he had not had the jab because he was worried about possible side effects.