Seal Media Group, Australia
More than 120,000 people demonstrated across France on Saturday, according to official figures, to protest the coronavirus health passes they say discriminate against the unvaccinated.Footage posted to Twitter by @HZ_Press shows those marching in the southern French city of Toulouse clashing with people wearing masks.The video, which has been viewed more than 3.4 million times, shows people physically attacking each other with long sticks, with things becoming so chaotic that crowds scatter. Intense scenes were also reported in the country’s capital of Paris, were riot police attempted to control the protest’s movement. The health pass, or a recent negative Covid test, is required to enter cafes, restaurants and many other public places.The French interior ministry said 121,000 had demonstrated in France, 19,000 people of them in the capital Paris where police arrested 85 people after clashes broke out.Three members of the police were slightly injured during the protests, the ministry added.This was the ninth consecutive weekend of protests, although according to the official count, the biggest numbers were on the previous marches.Officials put last weekend’s turnout across France at 140,000, and in early August an estimated 237,000 protesters turned out.Saturday’s protests come the day after former French health Minister Agnes Buzyn was charged over her handling of the Covid-19 pandemic, after investigators at a special court in Paris concluded there were grounds to prosecute her.Former prime minister Edouard Philippe and current Health Minister Olivier Veran are also being investigated by magistrates at the court and have seen their offices searched.The ruling will likely stir a debate about the blame and responsibility for the spread of Covid-19, which caught governments, many health experts and the World Health Organisation by surprise as it began spreading from China in early 2020.Dr Buzyn was charged with “endangering the lives of others”. The former doctor, who resigned from her post in February last year, weeks after the first Covid cases were confirmed in France, has faced criticism and ridicule over her initial statements about the pandemic.She said initially in January 2020 that there was “practically no risk” of importing Covid-19 from the Chinese city at the origin of the outbreak, Wuhan, and then said the “risk of a spread of the coronavirus among the population is very small”.A month later, as she left the ministry to launch a failed bid to become Paris mayor, she claimed that “the tsunami has yet to come”, in an apparent contradiction of her earlier statements.The cancer and transplant specialist later told a parliamentary investigation that she had alerted the president and then prime minister Philippe to the potential “dangers” of Covid-19 as early as January.France also faced a severe shortage of masks at the start of the pandemic and the government was inconsistent in its advice on face coverings, initially questioning their effectiveness, then mandating them in public spaces.