French anti-vaccine pass protests demonstrate for sixth weekend

French protests against the country’s vaccine health pass continued for the sixth straight weekend Saturday, with tens of thousands of people marching in Paris and other cities in opposition to the new vaccine requirements implemented for several public activities. 

Reuters reported that there were a total of about 175,000 people who gathered throughout France Saturday.  Photos and videos circulated on social media showed demonstrations, most of whom were maskless, holding signs with phrases like “Liberté,” and “Libérons la France,” or “Liberate France.” 

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Around 200 different protests were held throughout the country Saturday, though the total number of demonstrators declined from last weekend, when authorities recorded nearly 215,000 protesters. 

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Reuters noted, however, that the numbers could increase next week as more residents return from summer trips. 

Protesters on Saturday called for French President Emmanuel MacronEmmanuel Jean-Michel MacronJustice for Josephine Baker means restoring her US nationality Far-right commentator joins presidential race in France Josephine Baker honored at France's Pantheon MORE to abolish the vaccine passes, with demonstrators in Paris chanting, "Macron! We don't want your pass!" according to Agence France-Presse (AFP)

The protests have attracted people across the political spectrum in France, with Reuters reporting that the largest demonstration in Paris was led by far-right politician Florian Philippot. Another demonstration was led by left-wing protesters with ties to the "Yellow Vests" (Gilets Jaunes) movement.

France’s COVID-19 health passes, which officially went into effect earlier this month, include a QR code that different businesses and events can scan as official documentation that a person has either received the coronavirus vaccine or recently tested negative for COVID-19. 

The health pass requirements are being enforced at restaurants, museums, sports venues and other public locations throughout the country. 

While the majority of French citizens support the health passes, and roughly 62 percent of the country’s population has been fully vaccinated, a vocal minority opposed to the requirements has taken to the streets since the measure was first introduced. 

The French government has defended the health pass as a way to boost vaccinations across the country, especially as unvaccinated people make up the vast majority of recent coronavirus hospitalizations. 

AFP noted Saturday that Jewish groups and anti-racism campaigns have denounced some protesters who have displayed slogans and symbols, including yellow stars, in attempts to compare the health pass to the treatment of Jewish people under the Nazi regime. 

Left-wing newspaper Le Monde condemned the actions of some protesters, writing in an editorial this week, "Although anti-Semitism on the far-right is old, it seems to be encouraged at the moment by the rise in conspiracy thinking.”