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Anger over France’s new COVID rules re-energizes Yellow Vests

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
File photo of members of the French "yellow vests" movement waving the country’s flags as they protest against police violence in Paris. (Photo by Reuters)

Public anger against the French government’s renewed measures to contain the spread of COVID-19 has re-invigorated the Yellow Vest protest movement, insisting that the move amounts to an attack on civil liberties.

While police estimated that 100,000 people took part in protests against the measures last weekend, yet another round of protests is planned for the upcoming weekend, offering Yellow Vest activist a fresh momentum.

An internal interior ministry report cited in Friday press reports described last week's protest rallies as "exceptional in their scale," warning of further massive protest actions and that some officials associated with the government's COVID-19 measures needed to be extra vigilant about their security.

"I've seen a lot of first-time protesters," said 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, emphasizing that the latest protests had attracted people beyond the usual Yellow Vest faithful.

"Healthcare workers, restaurant owners too, all kinds of people, children," he said, adding: "If there's one thing that can unite people today, it's anger."

The Yellow Vest protest movement had previously challenged President Emmanuel Macron’s economic policies nearly two years ago, but now have to compete to lead the anti-health pass movement with other groups, including civil liberties campaigners.

Yellow vests blocked roads and staged protest marches, often clashing with police. Billions of euros in tax cuts helped quell the uprising, and after six months it began to lose steam. However, followers have continued to protest in smaller numbers.

Macron's administration recently submitted legislation to the parliament aimed at blocking people from entering restaurants and bars without a "health pass," showing they are vaccinated, have had a recent negative test, or have immunity from COVID-19.

Opponents of the measure, however, argue that the government is in effect forcing people to get jabbed.

The health pass protests have reportedly been mostly peaceful, though police used tear gas to disperse protesters in Paris on July 14. Moreover, two vaccination centers were targeted in arson attacks, and the speaker of the French parliament reported that some legislators backing the new measures had received death threats.


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