Anti-vaccine protesters gathered in cities across France on Saturday, denouncing President Emmanuel Macron’s intention to “piss off” people refusing COVID-19 vaccines by tightening restrictions on their civil liberties
Macron said this week he wanted to irritate unvaccinated people by making their lives so complicated that they would end up getting stung. Unvaccinated people are irresponsible and unworthy of being seen as citizens, he added.
In Paris, the demonstrators responded by adopting its slang formulation, chanting “We’re going to piss you off”.
Others carried signs saying “No to the vaccine pass,” a reference to Macron’s legislative pressure to require proof of vaccination to enter places such as cafes, bars and museums.
Television footage showed skirmishes between protesters and police at a site. Protesters also gathered in the streets of Marseille, Nantes and Le Mans, among other cities.
“(Macron’s remarks) were the last straw. We are not irresponsible,” said hospital administrator Virginie Houget, who avoided a mandatory vaccine order for health workers because she caught COVID-19 late last year.
Protesters accuse Macron of trampling on their freedoms and treating citizens unequally. He says freedoms come with responsibilities that include protecting the health of others.
France recorded more than 300,000 new coronavirus infections for the second time in a week on Friday. Hospitalizations, including COVID-19 patients in intensive care (ICU), are steadily increasing, straining the healthcare system.
Some hospitals have reported that about 85% of intensive care patients are not vaccinated against COVID-19. Data shows that 90% of those over 12 eligible for the COVID vaccine are fully immunized.
The French must already present either proof of vaccination or a negative test to enter restaurants and bars and use interregional trains. But with Omicron infections soaring, the government wants to ditch the testing option.
Three months before a presidential election, Macron’s blunt language seemed calculated, tapping into growing frustration with the unvaccinated.
Conservative challenger Valérie Pecresse said Macron was driving a wedge across the country. Far-right candidate Eric Zemmour denounced what he called childish remarks by the president.
In the streets of the capital, protesters accused Macron of politicizing the pandemic ahead of the elections.
“I want him to piss off drug dealers and criminals, not the average person,” said a 55-year-old protester who requested anonymity because he runs a business.
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