| 14 April 2024, Sunday |

Anger over COVID rules gives new impetus to France’s Yellow Vests

Jerome Rodrigues has been trying to re-activate a Yellow Vest protest movement, from his one-room apartment near Paris airport, that two years ago challenged President Emmanuel Macron’s rule then petered out.

Now, public anger at government measures to curb the spread of COVID-19, has given Rodrigues and his movement fresh momentum, especially that some people say that the measures taken attack their liberty, .

Last weekend, police estimated that 100,000 people joined protests against the measures – some of them under the banner of the Yellow Vests. Another round of protests is planned for this weekend.

An internal interior ministry report, seen by Reuters, described last week’s protests as “exceptional in their scale,” warned further large protests were likely, and said some officials associated with the government’s COVID-19 measures needed to be extra vigilant about their security.

Rodrigues, one of the movement’s best-known figures who lost an eye when he was hit with a projectile at a protest two years ago, said the latest protests had attracted people beyond the usual Yellow Vest faithful.

“I’ve seen a lot of first-time protesters,” Rodrigues, who wears a prosthetic eye, said at his apartment. “Healthcare workers, restaurant owners too, all kinds of people, children.”

“If there’s one thing that can unite people today, it’s anger.”

Macron’s administration has submitted legislation to parliament which will stop people entering restaurants and bars without a “health pass”, showing they are vaccinated, have had a recent negative test, or have immunity from COVID-19. Opponents say the state is, de facto, forcing people to get jabbed.

The Yellow Vests have to compete to lead the anti-health pass movement with other groups; among them far-right politicians, and civil liberties campaigners.

Macron’s allies say protests should not obscure what they say is a silent majority who support the measures, and believe they are needed to get life back to normal.

  • Reuters