Approximately 160,000 people, including far-right activists and members of France's yellow vest movement, demonstrated across the country on Saturday (local time) against a bill that would require everyone to have a special virus pass to enter restaurants and mandate Covid-19 vaccinations for all healthcare workers.
Protests of a similar nature were conducted in neighboring Italy.
In Paris, police used water cannons and tear gas to disperse boisterous protestors, even though the majority of the demonstrations were peaceful.
After the lower house of parliament adopted the virus bill on Friday, senators in France's Senate were debating it on Saturday, as virus infections and hospitalizations continue to rise. To safeguard vulnerable people and hospitals, the French government wants to speed up vaccines and avoid a new lockdown.
The majority of French individuals are completely vaccinated, and polls show that the majority of French citizens approve of the new regulations. However, this is not the case for everyone.
Protesters chanted "Liberty! Liberty!" as they marched through eastern Paris in one of several demonstrations held around France on Saturday. Thousands also attended a rally organized by a former top official in Marine Le Pen's anti-immigration party across the Seine River from the Eiffel Tower.
On the fringes of the Bastille march, tensions flared, even though the majority of protestors were peaceful. After a marcher threw a chair at an officer, riot police used tear gas to disperse the crowd. Other projectiles were thrown as well. Later, some protestors marched to the Arc de Triomphe, where they were dispersed by police using water cannons.
Far-right lawmakers and activists and others furious with President Emmanuel Macron were among the marchers. They were enraged by the introduction of a French "health pass," which is now required to visit museums, movie theaters, and tourist attractions. The plan currently being debated would extend the demand for a pass to all restaurants and bars in France and several other establishments.
People must be completely vaccinated, have a recent negative test, or have confirmation of recent recovery from the illness to receive the pass.
Infections are on the rise in France, and lawmakers are split on how far to go in implementing health cards or required vaccinations. More than 111,000 people have died in France as a result of the virus, and the country currently sees roughly 20,000 new cases every day, up from a few thousand in early July.
More than 2 billion people have been vaccinated around the world, and information regarding Covid-19 vaccines is now publicly available, but many protesters said they felt hurried into something they weren't ready for.
Céline Augen, a secretary in a doctor's office, is anticipating losing her work as a result of the new law because she refuses to be vaccinated.
“We need to wait a little bit before the French people can decide,” engineer Ayoub Bouglia remarked. I believe that a portion of France will always be unwilling and that extortion and intimidation will not work.”
Thousands of demonstrators gathered in Rome, Milan, Verona, and other Italian towns on Saturday to demonstrate against the government's proposal to require a "Green Pass" to enter indoor dining establishments, municipal fairs, stadiums, theatres, and other public gathering places.
Thousands of people marched down the main retail street in the northern city of Verona, screaming "No Green Pass!" and "Freedom!" People likened the Green Pass decision to decisions made by fascist dictatorships. They included families with young children, medical doctors who said they are risking their jobs by refusing to get vaccinated, and people who compared the Green Pass decision to decisions made by fascist dictatorships.
The protests were calm and dispersed into the summer evening throng.
Despite vociferous criticism, Italy's new requirement, which took effect on August 3, has resulted in a surge in vaccine appointments, with nearly half of the eligible population having been fully vaccinated thus far.