Hundreds of thousands of demonstrators marched across France again on Saturday, despite August 15 being a Catholic holiday. According to figures from the Ministry of the Interior the number of protesters was slightly lower, but participants mocked the official count.
It was another success for opponents of the health pass, even according to the government. A total of 214 845 people, including 13 900 in Paris, “officially” marched on August 14 for the fifth consecutive weekend against the health pass.
The Yellow Number, a collective of yellow vests with its own count, identified more than 415 000 participants at a “minimum”. From Paris to Marseille and from Lille to Bordeaux, these tens of thousands of opponents from across the political spectrum marched “for the freedom to choose” despite certain incidents in Lyon.
In the capital, the two main processions took to the streets offering a wide range of slogans such as “liberate France”, “stop Corona madness” or “take your Macron pass and shove it”.
The health pass is a politically flammable object, and the consequent demonstrations which are organized everywhere in France every Saturday have shown it. An Ifop poll for the JDD showed that 68 percent of French people now believe that the health pass “will create two categories of citizens”.
“There is a division between those who have the pass, and therefore privileges, and the others”, a protester told RT France. The Marseillaise was sung in the marches by the demonstrators. In Lyon, however, a few scuffles took place with the police, who used tear gas.
Florian Philippot, president of the Patriots and figure of the opposition movement against the health pass, told RT France: “We are having the debate that Macron did not want, and we’re doing it in the street since he did not want to do it”.
Jérôme Rodrigues, a figure of the Yellow Vests described the health pass as “a measure of liberticide”. More than two weeks before the start of the school year, many protesters were still worried about the obligation to vaccinate children going to school.
In Montreal, as in France, thousands of demonstrators took to the streets on August 14 to protest against the establishment of a health pass in Quebec, Canada. “Freedom”, “We are not laboratory rats”, they shouted, according to a journalist from the AFP. In the French-speaking province, vaccination coverage is very high since 84 percent of Quebecers have received a first dose of vaccine and 70 percent have been fully vaccinated.
The extension of the health pass is becoming a headache for President Macron. According to the latest YouGov poll relayed by the Huffington Post, the head of state’s popularity is in sharp decline – three points down compared to July. With only 28 percent against 31 percent a month ago, Emmanuel Macron is at his lowest level since the end of the first confinement in 2020.
It has been a domino effect, with more and more French people dissatisfied with his policy – 63 percent against 59 percent in July.
Emmanuel Macron recently embarked on the difficult exercise of trying to charm the youth via social networks. After appearing on the TikTok and Instagram platforms with his “educational” videos, the president is not seeing any positive effect from this new strategy. According to this YouGov study, he even lost two points among 18-34 year olds. And according to the Huffington Post, only 35 percent of school children would support unvaccinated students staying home if a case of Covid-19 was detected in their school.
Similarly, less than half support the obligation of the health pass during school outings.
French Prime Minister Jean Castex, much more discreet in the media about enforcing a health pass, gained one point in one month. A little more than eight months before the presidential election, Macron has been taking a huge risk as evidenced by his back-pedaling on the new laws on two-wheelers, because it is not the moment “to annoy the French”.
This popular discontent has become, for some parties, a potential political boon. According to an Ifop poll for the JDD, 35 percent of French people supported these mobilizations at the end of July, but above all: 49 percent were supporters of the National Rally (RN) and 57 percent were voters of Rebellious France (LFI).
Several RN mayors or those close to the party of Marine Le Pen refused to allow their municipal police to check sanitary passes on outside café terraces, or even in all bars and restaurants. “The State invited the mayors to involve their municipal police in controlling this pass in establishments open to the public [restaurants, bars, etc.]. This will not be the case in Fréjus,” said the RN mayor of Fréjus David Rachline.
“I prefer to see my agents continue to devote themselves fully to the safety of inhabitants and tourists and to the fight against delinquency and incivility,” he added.
In Hayange (Moselle), the mayor did the same. “We have decided to ask the municipal police not to carry out checks on cafeterias and restaurants concerning the health pass”, a press release from this city led by RN Fabien Engelmann stated. “This liberticidal measure put in place by the Macron government has no place in our free and democratic country”, noted the municipality, because “the police are more useful elsewhere”.
The mayor of Béziers (Hérault) Robert Ménard, close to the RN, opposed the controls on the terrace, judging the measure “inapplicable”.
“You think I’m going to send the municipal police to check that out of 4 people who are there, there is one by chance who does not have his health pass?” he told France Bleu Hérault.
In Beaucaire (Gard), the municipality warned: “The municipal police will have better things to do than carry out sanitary pass checks on the terraces of shops and will let the State itself take care of the matter.” The city is led by RN mayor Julien Sanchez. In a press release he denounced “government delusions”.
In a press release on August 9, the president of RN Marine Le Pen had estimated that with the health pass “the French are now under house arrest”.