French Police Deploy Tear Gas to Disperse Crowd Protesting COVID Passes

French police dressed in full riot gear were seen using tear gas and physical force on Saturday to disperse hundreds of thousands of people who were protesting the country's new COVID-19 health pass.

Some 3,000 security forces were deployed in Paris as several anti-pass demonstrations took place across the country's capital and other French cities for the third week in a row.

The protests came in response to a new health pass that requires French citizens to either present proof of a COVID-19 vaccination, a negative virus test, or proof of a recent recovery from the virus in order to enter places such as restaurants, bars, shopping centers, cinemas, museums, and other public venues. A new law also mandates that all health care workers must be vaccinated by mid-September.

Authorities estimated that some 150,000 protesters will take part in Saturday's demonstrations. Last week, 161,000 people gathered at similar protests, while 110,000 took to the streets a week earlier, France 24 reported.

FRANCE: protest in Paris - police already clashing with protesters.#NonAuPassDeLaHonte

— Nat (@Arwenstar) July 31, 2021

Video footage on social media showed police and protesters clashing Saturday, with plumes of smoke filling the sky and officers at times using their fists to face off against the crowds.

Other videos showed heavily condensed crowds of protesters packing into the streets, with many chanting "liberty."

In some videos, protesters were met with tear gas after attempting to charge at officers. Other footage showed burning trash cans in the street as demonstrators marched throughout Paris.

PARIS - Les manifestants #AntiPassSanitaire tentent de forcer un barrage de CRS. Gaz lacrymogène. Tensions. #manif31juillet #manifestation31juillet

— Clément Lanot (@ClementLanot) July 31, 2021

PARIS - Plusieurs policiers tombent sur une poubelle en feu. Tensions en cours. #manifestation31juillet #manif31juillet #PasseSanitaire

— Clément Lanot (@ClementLanot) July 31, 2021

French authorities said they are implementing the health pass because coronavirus cases are on the rise, largely due to the highly contagious Delta variant that was first detected in India.

On Friday, over 24,000 new daily cases were reported in France, marking a dramatic increase from just a few thousand cases at the start of the month, the Associated Press reported.

The government said that the health pass would take effect in most places by Aug. 9. The health pass, according to the AP, has driven many unvaccinated people to sign up for the jab so as not to sacrifice their social lives during the summer holiday season.

Despite the widespread protests, recent polls have suggested that a majority—or 62 percent—of French people support the new health pass to enter public spaces. An additional 69 percent said they supported mandatory vaccines for healthcare workers.

So far, more than 31 million, or 47.5 percent of the French population, have been fully vaccinated, according to Our World in Data. By Saturday, France had recorded over six million cases and 112,011 deaths since the start of the pandemic.

France protests health pass
Clashes erupt between police and demonstrators at the end of a demonstration, as part of a national day of protest against French legislation making a Covid-19 health pass compulsory to visit public spaces in Paris on July 31, 2021. Alain JOCARD / AFP/Getty Images