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Macron calls for unity after COVID protests

July 25, 2021

Thousands of protesters across France have rebelled against plans for COVID-19 passes to enter restaurants and mandatory vaccinations for health workers. However, three-quarters of the population support the idea.

Macron seen on a TV screen
Macron questioned the motives of protest organizersImage: Ludovic Marin/AFP

French President Emmanuel Macron on Sunday called for "unity" in the country against a fresh COVID surge by asking citizens to get vaccinated after mass protests against his measures a day earlier.

About 160,000 people rallied in Paris and around the country to demonstrate against a bill that would require citizens who work in healthcare to get vaccinated,while introducing COVID passes for entry to restaurants and cultural venues.

Similar protests last weekend attracted more than 100,000 people.

What did Macron say?

Macron, who was visiting a hospital in Tahiti on Saturday night, questioned the protestersꞌ motives when they had shouted for ꞌfreedom.ꞌ

"What is your freedom worth if you say to me, if you say ꞌI don't want to be vaccinated,ꞌ but tomorrow you infect your father, your mother or myself?" he asked.

The French president said protesters were also "free to express themselves in a calm and respectful manner" but this would not help to end the pandemic.

"I want to make a call for unity," Macron said, accusing the far right and other protest organizers of "sometimes cynical manipulative mobilization."

The protestersꞌ anger did not stop the French senate from passing a bill on Saturday night that would create a COVID-19 passport, issued only to those who are fully vaccinated.

The bill makes it mandatory for all healthcare workers to be vaccinated.

How extensive were the protests?

Paris was the scene of one of the larger protests on Saturday as riot police took part in running battles with those complaining against the government forcing them to take the shots.

Despite the discontent from this vocal minority, over three-quarters of the French public support the measures, according to a July 13 Elabe poll for BFMTV.

France is now recording 20,000 new coronavirus cases a day thanks to the more contagious Delta variant.

 Protesters stand amidst tear gas smoke during a demonstration against compulsory vaccination for certain workers
Police were forced to use tear gas to disperse crowds on SaturdayImage: Sameer Al-Doumy/AFP/Getty Images

The protests were not only limited to France, as similar clashes with police occurred in Australia, Greece and Italy.

"Sydney isn't immune from morons," said New South Wales Police Minister David Elliott after dozens were arrested in an unauthorized march in Australiaꞌs largest city.

jc/mm (AP, AFP)