PARIS: A total of 160,000 people protested across France on Saturday, the interior ministry said, angered at the country’s Covid health pass system which they say unfairly restricts the unvaccinated.
By early evening the authorities had logged 222 separate protest actions, including 14,500 people who turned out in Paris.
Sixteen people were arrested and three police officers slightly injured in what was the seventh consecutive weekend of Covid protests.
“The vaccine isn’t the solution,” said retiree Helene Vierondeels, who attended a right-wing protest in Paris.
“We should rather be stopping the closures of hospital beds and continuing the barrier measures,” she added.
In Bordeaux, several protesters said they were refusing to get their children vaccinated, just days before the start of the new school year.
“We aren’t laboratory rats,” said one 11-year-old boy who was marching with his father.
“We live in a free country, there are no figures that justify mass vaccinations,” his father said, likening the increased pressure to vaccinate to rape.
Under the Covid pass system, introduced progressively since mid-July, anyone wishing to enter a restaurant, theatre, cinema, long-distance train, or large shopping centre must show proof of vaccination or a negative test.
The government insists the pass is necessary to encourage vaccination uptake and avoid a fourth national lockdown, with the unvaccinated accounting for most of the Covid-19 patients admitted to hospital.
Saturday’s overall figure was slightly down on the 175,000 protesters who turned out the previous weekend.
Around 200,000 people have marched on previous weekends, according to interior ministry figures.
Organisers claim the real numbers were double the estimates announced by police.
The protest movement has brought together conspiracy theorists, anti-vaxxers, former members of the “Yellow Vest” anti-government movement, as well as people concerned that the current system unfairly creates a two-tier society.