Why are there protests in France?

Protests against (mostly) the French health passport have now reached their fifth week – but who are the protesters, what do they want and do the majority of French people support them?

PhotoLast Last Saturday again saw hundreds of thousands of people take to the streets in France to protest against the health passport – which is now required to access bars, cafés, museums, sports centres, tourist sites and undertake long-distance travel.

1. Turnout

Turnout for protests on Saturday was estimated by the Interior Ministry at 215,000 across the whole country, of which 14,000 were in Paris. This is slightly down on the previous week’s figure of 237,000 (with 17,000 in Paris) – until then turnout had seen a steady week-on-week increase.

Protests and demonstrations in France always have official turnout estimates from the Interior Ministry and from the organisers, and those figures tend to be wildly different – quelle surprise!


These turnout figures are lower than some recent big protests – 800,000 turnout for protests against pension reform, 300,000 weekly turnout in the early days of the gilets jaunes (yellow vests). However large scale protests in August – when many are on holiday – are a rarity.

2. Objectives

Although generally described as ‘anti-health passport’ demos, the protesters themselves have revealed a diverse range of concerns, from the introduction of the health passport itself to the vaccination programme in general, the compulsory vaccination of healthcare workers, the vaccine programme for children and a more general opposition to president Emmanuel Macron.

Paris alone saw three organised demos last Saturday – one described as a ‘yellow vests’ demonstration, one organised by right wing politician Florian Philippot and one billed simply as being an anti-health pass demo.

Media interviews with demonstrators have also revealed a range of views – from people who are pro-vaccine but worry about the civil liberties aspect of the health passport to committed anti-vaxxers.

3. Anti-Semitism

A persistent thread among a small minority of the protesters has been anti-Semitism. Paris prosecutors have opened an enquiry into “public incitement to hatred or violence against a person or a group of people because of their origin or their membership or non-membership of a particular ethnic group, nation, race or religion” relating to signs seen on Saturday’s protest, while a teacher will go on trial over a sign that she carried at a demo in Metz.

A frequently-seen sign on demonstrations, which has drawn condemnation from groups, including the Auschwitz Foundation, is people wearing yellow stars saying ‘unvaccinated’ – intended to liken themselves to Jews forced to wear yellow stars during the Nazi occupation of France.

4. Support

As well as people who actually turn up to demonstrations, successful protest movements also need the support of a broad range of public opinion. According to an Ifop poll conducted on 11th and 12th August for the Journal du Dimanche newspaper, 50% of French people are now ‘hostile’ to the protests, an increase of three percent on a previous similar poll.

Other polls suggest similar figures, with around 30% of people saying they support the movement or understand their concerns (compared to 70% support for the ‘yellow vests’ at the start of their protests).

Banners and chants on the protests also reveal a lot of personal hatred for Macron, suggesting that at least some of the demonstrators are those who are deeply hostile to any of the president’s policies.

5.Vaccination rates

The French government has always been explicit that the main the purpose of the health passport is to push people into being vaccinated by making daily life inconvenient for the unvaccinated. The health passport can be used by the unvaccinated, but requires either proof of recent recovery from Covid or a negative test result taken within 72 hours – and from October these ‘convenience tests’ will cease to be free.

The policy had an immediate effect on vaccination rates, with bookings for appointments on the medical app Doctolib spiking before Macron even finished his speech announcing the policy.

Since his announcement on 12th July, 10 million people have received their first dose of the vaccine, putting France on course to hit its target of 50 million people having at least one vaccine dose by the end of August (out of a population of 67 million people, 57 million of which are 12 and over and therefore eligible for the vaccine and 52 million of which are adults).

All images courtesy of AFP

42 Comments on “Why are there protests in France?

  1. I look at vaccine passports as a reward for the vaccinated rather than a punishment for the unvaccinated.
    Maybe the same thing. Vaccine passports would be much more useful if there was one or more that are accepted internationally. Booster shots are being recommended and delta variant can infect vaccinated people and make them contagious. In US, fake CDC vaccination cards are being produced. Vaccines are no panacea. As much as we’d like it to be otherwise, there just is no easy way out of this pandemic. It is great that the French health passports are causing more to get the vaccine.

    Liked by 9 people

    • Vaccine passport is recognised throughout the EU and I know the French app allows Brits to upload their NHS vaccination certificate. Vaccines do provide some protection, you’re much less likely to be really ill or die from Covid.

      Liked by 2 people

      • I’m a fan of vaccines (they provide a great deal of protection as you stated even if not total or permanent) and vaccine passports but there are problems. They don’t guarantee safety. With Delta, vaccinated people must still exercise the same precautions as unvaccinated. Passports or the information they are based on might be falsified. There is no universal process for obtaining them or the requirements for getting one (outside of the EU). With the need for boosters, vaccine passports will need an expiration or renewal date. And who knows when the next variant will emerge. SARS-CoV-2 just won’t play by the rules that would be convenient for us. That seems to be the unfortunate reality of this pandemic.

        Liked by 2 people

  2. Anti semitisme is a few strike brakers that have nothing to do with what the protesters are trying to do. Maybe a disguise anti protesters.. However, most people I speak too and even nurses tell me they have nothing against the health pass just make it necessary for those who needs it the most and not obligatory using bar/resto owners as policemen, this is bad and annoyed many. It will grow as the famous rentrée comes around when folks come back from vacations. Hopefully 2022 is election year lol!I will have my some news from France post tonight on what the WSJ is saying about all this and I since the beginning because worked in the industry. Cheers

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Florida is shattering records for our Covid outbreaks yet our idiot governor has forbidden mask mandates. Several school boards held their own private riot and said, “Screw that. We have to protect our children.” This is awful, Sheree. No one is gonna be happy, and things are so far out of control…

    Liked by 8 people

    • The 240,000 are a very small minority, thankfully. Most of us have been or will shortly be vaccinated.


  4. We have anti-vaxxers here in the US as well and I always wonder, don’t these people need to have a driver’s license and wear a seatbelt to protect others from their recklessness?? Alisa

    Liked by 4 people

  5. As a nurse once said. “Wear a crash helmet riding a Motorbike…ok….wear a seatbelt in a car and during take off and landing…..ok…wear a yellow jacket in dangerous situations….ok…wear a helmet on a building site…ok….wear clothes in almost all public places…OK…..wear a face mask or get a COVID test to prove you are free…”You are infringing my human rights to do exactly what I want to do”

    Liked by 6 people

  6. Interesting stuff. I usually have a sneaky admiration for the French and their willingness to protest, but I’m uneasy with this one. I can’t see any other way forward than vaccine, boosters and being willing and able to prove you’ve done it. We can’t remain in the grip of this virus, that’s for sure.

    Liked by 6 people

  7. God, don’t people whinge a lot these days, lol … Especially over things that are just not that important. That Macron mask, like I don’t like Trump, but I would never do something like that. How does having a vaccine passport affected your life negatively? It doesn’t. Too me it’s the same as having a driver license.

    Liked by 3 people

  8. Because is stupid to have that card, even if you are a vaccinated person. You still can spread the dresses, maybe not as much as a vaccinated people but you still can do that.. we just should protect our elders and let’s continue our life vaccineted or unvaccinated.. this is just sick and I hate when people discriminate other people! We should be in this together.. but the government know how to manipulate and this is the reason why we are in this situations

    Liked by 2 people

  9. I really don’t understand why people are so against a vaccine passport, it just makes good sense to have one. I’m certainly in favor of having it, no difference than having a drivers license or a health card. Sometimes I think there are people that want this virus to keep going. At least having the vaccine gives strong protection even if it’s not perfect. I know a lot of people here that are totally against the vaccine though, so sad.

    Liked by 4 people

  10. I agree with Lois in Florida. I live in Georgia where there is only about a 50% vaccination rate and we are also having a big increase in the number of cases. Our governor also doesn’t want mask mandates. I wish we had some kind of health passport since the fake cards are making it bad for everyone who is doing the right thing. Fascinating post.

    Liked by 3 people

    • And our states have the dubious honor of being in the top 5 for worst Covid outbreaks. The TX gov tested positive after attending a huge even the night before. Fake vaccination cards…? I mean, really, what next?

      Liked by 3 people

  11. Sorry there so many protesting. It seems pointless. I mean, the passes are a given now, something we’ll all just have to get used to as long as covid still exists. Xx

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Here in the North East (New Jersey and New York) and even in some places in California like SF, it’s not a passport with the “choice” of negative test or vaccine: it’s vaccine or nothing else: no vaccine no access to gyms, restaurant and so forth. So even in the US “freedom”country it starts to get stricter than even so called “authoritarian ” France. Like it or not (the vaccine) unfortunately there is no other way out of this pandemic, so just let’s do it, “swallow the hard pill” so we can see an end to the tunnel and come back to a more normal life. And now we are even going towards a 3rd dose 8th months after the second not only for fragile and immunocompromised people but also for the general public due to this delta nightmare.

    Liked by 2 people

  13. Pingback: Why are there protests in France? – https://musicaurbnablog.wordpress.com/2020/06/27/musica-urbana/Site Title

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