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French prime minister Jean Castex responded to the eighth consecutive weekend of anti-vaccination rallies with a robust defence of the protesters’ complaining and agitating against the government efforts to stem the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.
“There’s a perfect right to demonstrate and to be against the vaccine or against the health pass, Castex told the TV programme On est en direct.
“But we don't have the right to use these motives to make antisemitic remarks,” he added. “We don't have the right because we are anti-vax to go and burn down vaccination centres, we don't have the right because we are anti-pass to physically attack a waiter in a café.”
More than 115,000 people have died in France since the first wave of the pandemic in January 2020. French health services reported around 10,000 new cases of infection on Saturday.
The French interior ministry said more than 140,000 people attended protests throughout France on Saturday to voice their anger about compulsory anti-coronavirus vaccinations for health workers and the need to show proof of double vaccinations or a recent PCR test in order to enter cafes, restaurants and museums.
Around 200 protesters clashed with police in central Paris after storming the Forum des Halles mall in central Paris. Other demonstrators barged their way into the Gare Saint Charles in Marseille and rampaged through the Passage Pommeraye in Nantes.
“In the anti-vax campaign, there are people who don't know, who are scared and we should never make fun of people who are afraid,” said Castex.
“It is the government’s responsibility to explain the reality. What has serious side effects, we are sure, is Covid. No vaccine has ever been so closely monitored in all countries as the Covid vaccines.”
Florian Philippot, one of the politicians urging the demonstrations, told supporters in Paris on Saturday that they should be ready to return to the streets next weekend to increase the pressure on the government.
“We have a certain number of constraints because the pandemic is here,” Castex told the programme.
“When you are vaccinated, you can still transmit the virus. Vaccination is here but so is the epidemic. If there was no health pass, what would the alternative be? Closure as we have known it. The pass is useful, we put it where it is useful and it produces results.”