Protesters hit French streets to fight new vaccine pass

Demonstrators gather during a protest against vaccination pass rules and vaccinations to control the spread of Covid-19 in Paris, France, on Saturday, Jan. 8, 2022. French President Emmanuel Macron took Europe's aggressive stance against the unvaccinated up a notch, saying he wants to "p--- off" people who don't get their Covid-19 shot. Photographer: Nathan Laine/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Demonstrators gather during a protest against vaccination pass rules and vaccinations to control the spread of COVID-19 in Paris, France, on Saturday, Jan. 8, 2022. (Photo by Getty Images)

Thousands demonstrated in cities across France on Saturday against tighter restrictions on people not vaccinated against COVID-19, as parliamentary wrangling continued over the draft law.

In the capital Paris, the largest single gathering set off from near the Eiffel Tower, called by fringe anti-EU presidential candidate Florian Philippot.

Other demonstrations harked back to the 2018-19 “yellow jackets” protests against President Emmanuel Macron’s perceived favoring of the wealthy, while there were further gatherings in major cities like Bordeaux, Toulouse and Lille.

People in the crowd chanted “no to the vaccine” or “freedom for Djokovic”, seizing on the case of world tennis number one Novak Djokovic, who is fighting the Australian government to compete unvaccinated in next week’s Grand Slam Australian Open.

In Paris, demonstrators bore French and regional flags, with banners bearing messages like “it’s not the virus they want to control, it’s you”.

While officials had not published an estimate of nationwide turnout by late afternoon, police or local authorities counted around 1,000 each in Lyon, Nantes, Bordeaux and Marseille.