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Right-wing populists try to silence France's vaccine protests

Right-wing populists try to silence France’s vaccine protests

It faded after the morning rain. Protesters gathered outside the Military Academy, a stone’s throw from the Eiffel Tower in Paris. This is just one of a total of four different demonstrations in the capital on this day — and it’s as good a sign as anything how widespread the movement against vaccine lanes is.

The yellow jackets appear on the other side of the Seine. Anarchists as well. The demonstration visited by DN is organized by the far-right populist, anti-immigration and anti-EU Florian Philippot.

He was for a long time the right-hand man of Marine Le Pen, but he left the National Assembly a few years ago and formed a new party, the Patriots.

In the name of honesty, it didn’t happen It went well. The Patriots held disastrous regional elections and Phillippott’s presidential nomination received little or no attention. But now he sees his chance. He came out early and lent support to the protest movement, saying this week that at least he hasn’t been vaccinated, because “the risks are greater than the benefits.”

Not even Marine Le Pen would dare to make that kind of statement. And Philippot did not receive unexpectedly sharp criticism from intensive care physicians and epidemiologists. But he seems convinced that his potential voters are simply not listening to them. As many as 30 percent of French people are already skeptical that vaccines are generally safe, and many get their information on social media, where the anti-vaccine movement is strong in France.

Macron and his government lie about everything. They lie and lie, Philippot thundered off the stage.

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Sometimes it looks the same As a skeptical vaccine clip on social media; It is full of suggestive leaps that should make the listener come to conclusions that have no scientific evidence. And he’s coming home, at least in that audience.

In the middle of the crowd stands 42-year-old Nicholas holding an A4 sheet of paper with the text “Freedom” on it.

On the back: French tricolor.

– For me, it’s not just about individual freedom – the one that the vaccine is going through now threatens to stop us from going to restaurants, traveling and so on. No, it is also about the freedom of France. It is threatened by the European Union. It was the European Union that introduced and contributed to the “green passport”, says Nicholas – who apparently took on Philippot’s critical letter to the EU.

– I will not receive the vaccination. Not with these experimental vaccines. And not when the disease is very mild and almost only affects older adults, he says.

Nicholas 42.

Photo: Eric de la Regera

More than 120,000 people have died so far in France due to COVID-19. Now hospital admissions are increasing again, as a result of the delta variable. The average age of Covid patients in the country’s hospitals today is 57, compared to 63 exactly one year ago, and 79 in November 2020, according to reports. the world. Perhaps the explanation is that a greater proportion of the elderly are being vaccinated.

But this does not give much to Nicholas and the others at the demonstration. As I go forward, hold my hand visibly. It amazes me that this is the first time in just over a year that I have ever held someone’s hand.

Nobody here wears a mouthguard, although people are getting close to each other and chanting slogans. On some posters, I read messages like “vaccine = poison”. The mood gets angry sometimes.

No one should be allowed to try my heart out! Cecile, 53, screams.

Macron is just lying, he’s so irresponsible, he should resign now! She says her 47-year-old friend, Danielle, has been discontinued.

Then they smile sweetly at the photo.

Friends Daniel and Cecil are demonstrating against passing the vaccine.

Friends Daniel and Cecil are demonstrating against passing the vaccine.

Photo: Eric de la Regera

Across the street, 70-year-old Beatrice is watching. She is a retired college teacher in anthropology. She shook her head. Like many, she does not want her family name in the tabloids. But it is one of the silent majority who support passing the vaccine.

Of course, there are many arguments against passing the vaccine, from antacids to those concerned about personal safety. I’d like to avoid them, but I still think it’s right to introduce them now. Something must be done to deal with the infection. And Beatrice says Philippot, yes, it’s a classic that right-wing populists try to take advantage of things like this.

It’s as if you’re starting to get used to the fact that 20 percent of the population is extremist, she adds.

Beatrice, 70, supports the vaccination sessions.

Beatrice, 70, supports the vaccination sessions.

Photo: Eric de la Regera

A few meters away, 31-year-old Daphne stands and hesitates. She came here to pretend – but now she’s not sure if she’ll really join the crowd.

There are a lot of extreme opinions here, opinions that I cannot defend. I’m not vaccinated very much, and I’ll probably get vaccinated eventually. But I am against the vaccine passport. She says we shouldn’t have that in France.

Daphne, 31, is reluctant to pretend: "There are a lot of extreme opinions."

Daphne, 31, is reluctant to pretend: “There are a lot of extremist opinions.”

Photo: Eric de la Regera

Its reluctance to become part of a far-right crowd may explain why support for the movement has stagnated in public opinion, while the number of protesters is growing. And 237,000 people took to the streets and squares on Saturday – more than 204,000 demonstrated a week ago, according to police.

But only 20 percent of French people say they support the protest movement. And another 17% feel sympathy, according to a new survey published in reverberation. It’s lower than it was a week ago, and far from the support the Yellow Vests enjoyed in Fall 2018.

The polarization in public opinion is also clear. A clear majority still supports the introduction of vaccine passports. 23 percent say they do not intend to go to a restaurant, as long as there is a requirement to obtain a passport there. But 77 percent agreed with it, and 55 percent see no problem with the scaling at all. In the long run, this could mean three-quarters of French people are ready to be vaccinated, after all.

There are some regional differences: the protest movement clearly has stronger support in southeastern France, where the far right has traditionally enjoyed a strong foothold.

But the vaccination campaign has gained momentum, and more than 300,000 initial doses are now given each day. This is almost double what it was before Emmanuel Macron announced that a “health passport” requirement (in practice, a full vaccination, a new negative test or a completed illness in the past six months) must be introduced. Now on Monday, permits will go into effect at everything from restaurants to doctors’ clinics.

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