9 Weeks and Counting: 120,000 French Demonstrate Against Vaccine Passports

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Leader of the French nationalist party "Les Patriotes" (The Patriots) Florian Philippot (C) leads the march during a demonstration against the Green Pass vaccine passport segregation system in Paris on September 11, 2021. More than 120,000 French hit the streets for the 9th week in a row, calling for a return to normal life.
Leader of the French nationalist party "Les Patriotes" (The Patriots) Florian Philippot (C) leads the march during a demonstration against the Green Pass vaccine passport segregation system in Paris on September 11, 2021. More than 120,000 French hit the streets for the 9th week in a row, calling for a return to normal life. (Image: THOMAS SAMSON/AFP via Getty Images)

While the United States and the English speaking world focused on the solemn 20th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorism attacks, in France, the date marked the ninth consecutive week of massive protests against vaccine passport social segregation in the country. 

According to AFP, more than 120,000 citizens hit the streets to challenge President Emmanuel Macron’s “Green Pass” vaccine passport, an initiative implemented in July that has seen those who have not voluntarily accepted Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) vaccination be locked out of virtually every aspect of social life.

Macron, who was revealed as a target of the Israeli Pegasus spyware scandal the same month, placed heavy penalties on businesses and individuals who evade Green Pass requirements: business owners can face a year in prison and/or a €45,000 fine, while patrons who fail to show qualified papers to authorities upon request can face six months in jail and/or a €10,000 fine.

The French immediately took to the streets in droves to protest the measures, an order that will also see the country’s healthcare workers suspended without pay on Sept. 15 if they have not accepted an injection. On July 24, more than 160,000 citizens marched to challenge the decree. 

Macron, using a similar approach to his counterparts in Australia, villainized protesters at the time, “This is not freedom, it is called irresponsibility, egoism…If tomorrow you infect your father, your mother or myself, I am a victim of your freedom when you had the possibility of having something to protect you and me.”

“And in the name of your freedom, maybe you’re going to get a serious form (of the virus) and you’re going to come to this hospital. It is all these personnel who will have to take charge of you and perhaps give up taking someone else,” claimed Macron.

Numbers for the Sept. 11 protests were provided to AFP via the Interior Ministry, which noted the demonstrations were spread across the country, with 19,000 protestors in Paris.

French media LCI quoted one citizen, who spoke on a megaphone during the event, as saying, “My fear is the total loss of freedoms and the vaccination of children…I don’t want to be forced to show a QR code to go out, I want to keep my privacy confidential,” according to a Google translation.

Video of the protests posted on Twitter show a chaotic scene of fully armed riot police facing off against swathes of citizens as large clouds of tear gas are deployed. In one video, a man throws an object into a cluster of riot cops, leading to a siege against an entire crowd of demonstrators.

In another set of videos, the scene resembles Hong Kong’s historic 2019 anti-Chinese Communist Party protests with protestors taking shelter inside a building after being disoriented from police-deployed tear gas in one video and plumes of gas and flash grenades detonating in the streets in another. 

In another 46 second clip posted to Twitter, two large unidentified groups of plain clothes citizens are seen meleeing against each other, as sticks, flags, and fists fly. 

On Sept. 10, France24 reported that former Health Minister Agnes Buzyn will face a formal investigation for “endangering the lives of others” after she said in January of 2020 when the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic began its global spread from Wuhan City in China that there was “practically no risk” of importing the virus to France.

Buzyn is also quoted as saying the “risk of a spread of the coronavirus among the population is very small.”

France24 says a month later, Buzyn left her position as Minister after being asked by Macron to run for Mayor of Paris after Benjamin Griveaux resigned in disgrace from a sex scandal. While campaigning, Buzyn changed her tone immediately, stoking fear in the public when she said about the virus that “the tsunami has yet to come.”

Buzyn lost the election, and was appointed to the China-friendly World Health Organization to a position “in charge of monitoring multilateral issues” in January of this year, according to a second France24 article on the matter.

France isn’t alone in the battle. According to DW, 150,000 citizens in The Netherlands hit the streets in a protest dubbed “Unmute Us” against the country’s vibrant nightlife scene being shut down by pandemic measures.

Organizers said on their website, “We need to stand up for the events industry, which has been shut down for a year and a half.” More than 70,000 Dutch joined a first wave of Unmute Us protests held in August. 

Data tracking website Statista says France has delivered two doses of vaccination to almost 46 million of its 67 million citizens as of Sept. 7, a figure up from slightly more than 23 million on July 1. 

In Israel, the government recently announced that fully vaccinated status for the country’s passport system would be automatically removed six months after the last injection, forcing citizens to accept a third, and possibly fourth or fifth dose, in order to continue to participate in society.

  • Neil lives in Canada and writes about society and politics.