Tens of thousands of people gathered in cities in Greece and France on July 14, 2021 to protest government public health mandates that require people to show proof they have gotten COVID-19 vaccinations in order to gather in many public places. In Greece, the protests were organized after the unvaccinated were barred from almost all indoor public places, including bars, restaurants, theaters and other entertainment venues, and health care workers and military personnel were required to get the COVID-19 vaccine, while plans were underway to vaccinate15 year-old children with the consent of parents.1 2 3
In France, on Bastille Day (July 14), police used tear gas on a crowd of 20,000 during a demonstration in Paris. People were protesting against government plans to mandate COVID-19 vaccine for health care workers and institute a “vaccine pass” mandate requiring citizens to show proof of COVID-19 vaccination or negative COVID test to enter most public spaces and face jail time and stiff fines for violating the law.4 5 Another mass demonstration drawing tens of thousands of people was held in the streets of Paris on July 17.6
In Greece: “Hands off our kids”
The largest demonstrations held in Greece were in Athens in front of the Greek parliament and in Thessaloniki, while smaller groups also peacefully marched in Ioannina and Heraklion.7 They held banners saying, “We say no to vaccine poison” and chanted “Hands off our kids.”8 According to the Greek Reporter, the new rules require unvaccinated people to be tested to enter indoor areas or crowded open spaces:9
Everyone must also have the corresponding certificate to prove their status to gain access to the venues. The plan also allows for “mixed” venues which also grant access to the unvaccinated—but only if they have a negative rapid or PCR test for Covid. The measures can apply to either indoor areas or open spaces that are likely to be crowded.
On July 13, the London-based human rights group Amnesty International issued a report entitled Greece: Freedom of assembly at risk and unlawful use of force in the era of COVID-19” on the state of human rights in Greece during the pandemic.10 According to the Greek Reporter, the report concluded the police in Greece are using the pandemic as an excuse to impose blanket bans on protests, applying excessive force to “crush peaceful demonstrations and that flawed legislation and problematic practices have had a chilling effect on the rights to freedom of expression and of peaceful assembly.”
In France: Jail Time and Stiff Fines
In France, the government’s announcement of a proposed law to require all health care workers to get COVID-19 vaccinations and for citizens to present a “health pass” that contains either a COVID-19 vaccine certificate or a negative PCR test to enter shopping malls, cafes, bars, restaurants, movie theaters, sports venues and public transportation, was met with huge protests. According to French media, the government’s draft bill also called for mandatory 10-day isolation for anyone who tests positive, with police making random checks.11
The proposed law would take effect on Aug. 1, 2021 and apply to children ages 12 to 17 years old after Sept. 1. A British newspaper, The Guardian, reported:12
People unable to present a valid health pass risk up to six months in prison and a fine of up to €10,000 (£8,500) [or about $11,800], according to the draft text of the law, while owners of “establishments welcoming the public” who fail to check patrons’ passes could go to jail for a year and be hit with a €45,000 fine [or about $53,100].
There were marches in the cities of Nantes, Marseille and Montpelier on July 14 but the largest was in Paris, where 20,000 protesters gathered. Many were wearing badges that said “No to the health pass,’ with one protester describing the proposed law as “totally arbitrary and wholly undemocratic.” Police fired tear gas in an attempt to disperse some of the crowd.13
The public demonstrations against COVID-19 vaccine mandates were held on Bastille Day, which is the anniversary of the 1789 storming of the Bastille Saint-Antoine, a prison fortress in Paris used by the Kings of France. The storming of the Bastille marked the turning point in the French Revolution.14
On Saturday, July 17, tens of thousands of people of all ages returned to peacefully demonstrate in the streets of Paris, holding signs saying “Liberty” and “Natural Immunity” and “No Vaccine Passports” and denouncing “medical dictatorship,” at times spontaneously singing La Marseillaise, the French national anthem. According to Associated Press, there were also similar demonstrations that took place in Strasbourg, Lille, Montpelier and elsewhere in France on Saturday.15
Watch live video feed of nearly four hours from that demonstration here.
COVID-19 Vaccine Mandates Unpopular
Large demonstrations in France and Greece are the latest in a series of protests that have taken place in Europe and other countries opposing restrictive lockdowns, social distancing and masking policies, and proposed COVID-19 vaccine mandates and health passports.16 17 18 In a recent article, Washington Post reporters wrote:19
The unrest in France and Greece has underscored the difficulty that some leaders face in weighing public health during a pandemic against policies that appear to encroach on individual freedom…In Russia, for example, vaccine mandates and digital health passes for restaurants and bars in Moscow and other cities have been deeply unpopular. Last month, authorities in the capital said 60 percent of public-facing employees—from teachers to taxi drivers to salespeople—must be fully vaccinated by Aug. 15.
If you would like to receive an e-mail notice of the most recent articles published in The Vaccine Reaction each week, click here.
Click here to view References:
1 Associated Press. Plan to vaccinate teens triggers large protests in Greece. July 14, 2021.
2 European Union Times. Mass Protests Erupt in Greece against Government after Compulsory Vaccinations and Passports. July 15, 2021.
3 Kokkinidis T. Thousands Protest Against Mandatory Vaccination in Greece. Greek Reporter July 15, 2021.
4 Henley J. France achieves record Covid jabs with Macron’s ‘big stick’ approach. The Guardian July 15, 2021.
5 Deutsche Welle. Coronavirus digest: Thousands protest in France over vaccine requirements. July 15, 2021.
6 Your News. Massive Protest Continues in Paris Against Mandatory Vaccinations; New COVID Restrictions. July 17, 2021.
7 Kokkinidis T. Thousands Protest Against Mandatory Vaccination in Greece. Greek Reporter July 15, 2021.
8 European Union Times. Mass Protests Erupt in Greece against Government after Compulsory Vaccinations and Passports. July 15, 2021.
9 Kokkinidis T. Thousands Protest Against Mandatory Vaccination in Greece. Greek Reporter July 15, 2021.
10 Kokkinidis T. Amnesty Blasts Greece for Using Pandemic to Crush Protests. Greek Reporter July 15, 2021.
11 Reuters. Protests in France against COVID-19 ‘health pass’ rules. July 14, 2021.
12 Henley J. France achieves record Covid jabs with Macron’s ‘big stick’ approach. The Guardian July 15, 2021.
13 Reuters. Protests in France against COVID-19 ‘health pass’ rules. July 14, 2021.
14 Encyclopedia Brittanica. Bastille.
15 Gouvy C, Charlton A. France: Thousands Protest Against Vaccination, COVID Passes. Associated Press July 17, 2021.
16 Fisher BL. German Police Fire Water Cannon at Lockdown Protesters and Arrest Hundreds. The Vaccine Reaction Nov. 23, 2020.
17 Fisher BL. Protests Against COVID Lockdowns Flare Up in 2021 Around the World. The Vaccine Reaction Mar. 29, 2021.
18 Fisher BL. Hundreds of Thousands March in London Protesting Pandemic Restrictions, Vaccine Passports. The Vaccine Reaction May 31, 2021.
19 Cunningham E, Khurshudyan I. Covid-19 global updates: Protests hit Athens and Paris over new coronavirus restrictions, vaccine mandates. Washington Post July 15, 2021.