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Vaccine Centers Vandalized in France, Thousands March Across Country

Antivaxxers march in Athens last week. Those who are against receiving the coronavirus vaccine have demonstrated all across Europe in the past week, as countries ramp up efforts to stem the tide of the Delta variant. Credit: Greek Reporter

In an increasingly ugly anti-vaccination atmosphere in France, two vaccine centers were vandalized over the weekend, with one of them flooded with fire hoses on Friday night while hordes marched in cities across the nation protesting new coronavirus measures.

The French people reacted strongly against President Emmanel Macron’s most recent ruling on Thursday calling for indoor spaces to ban those who have not been vaccinated or are otherwise immune to the coronavirus.

Similar rulings also came down on Thursday from Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, who stated that there must be mandatory vaccinations for all health care workers and those who wish to patronize indoor establishments.

In France, those who attempt to defy the rulings can be jailed. The French President also called for mandatory vaccinations for all those working in the health care field.

Widespread vaccine hesitancy in France

While some in France had a positive response to the new measures, with one million French citizens registering for the inoculation after the new measures were announced, an estimated 114,000 people took part in antivax protests in cities across the French Republic, according to Interior Ministry estimates.

Thousands of protestors marched in Paris, Marseille, Avignon, and at least six other French cities, chanting and carrying placards saying “Freedom,” “Macron dictator,” “Macron resign,” “No to Shame Pass,” and “Boycott Health Pass.”

In Lyon, the police arrested nine demonstrators, and in Dijon, they fired tear gas on marchers. Hundreds of antivax demonstrators marched on and took over the expressway in southeastern Chambery, blocking both lanes of traffic for several hours.

French political representatives are also being threatened by anti-vaxxers, prompting Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin to tell the local police to strengthen measures to protect them, according to reports from BFMTV.

In Lans-en-Vercors, near Grenoble in southeastern France, a vaccination center was found ransacked and vandalized on Saturday morning. Anti-vaccine graffiti was written on the wall, according to a report from La Dauphine news. French authorities vowed those responsible for the acts of vandalism would be prosecuted.

Protests across Europe against new vaccine measures

On Saturday, however, the protests continued, with a second clinic in the southwest of the country, in the village of Urrugne near Biarritz, partially destroyed in an arson attack.

Last week, French scientists warned the country that there would be a fourth wave of coronavirus infections in the coming months. Surprisingly, the country, which has some of the most advanced medical research institutions in the world, has shown a great deal of vaccine hesitancy.

As of now, just over half of the population of France has received a first inoculation and less than 40% have had both doses.

A study by the firm Ipsos in late 2020, after the fallout from economic and social devastation of the pandemic, showed that only 40% of people surveyed in France intended to receive a Covid vaccine.

French politician Martine Wonner encouraged antivax protesters to “lay siege” to the offices of lawmakers who were in favor of the government’s Covid policies at a rally on Saturday, but she was forced to step down from her opposition group the next day as her remarks were publicized.

Already a well-known vaccine skeptic, she now faces a potential legal inquiry for her remarks while she maintains that her words were misunderstood.

France has seen several acts of violence and vandalism against lawmakers who supported the new vaccination rules.

The French government is trying to head off a fourth wave of the virus as the Delta variant races across the globe, and already causing a surge in hospital admissions.

More than 111,000 people succumbed with Covid in France during the course of the pandemic so far, which has severely damaged the country’s economy. Last year, there were practically no Americans in the country and very few Europeans from other nations.

Large Demonstrations in Athens, Thessaloniki

Greece has seen its share of antivax marchers as well, with large demonstrations last week in Athens, Thessaloniki and other cities, while Cyprus experienced violence over the weekend with a demonstration that devolved into a vandalism spree at the headquarters of a local television station.

A group of protestors clashed with police outside the Presidential Palace and trashed the offices of the TV station SigmaLive.

Clashes had taken place outside the palace between protesters and police after the demonstration was drawing to a close.

A little later, at around 9:30 PM local time, a group of attackers, from the ranks of the protestors who were outside the presidential palace, broke into the Dias group building that houses Sigma TV; they then attacked staff, set fire to cars in the parking lot and trashed the offices.

On Thursday of last week, demonstrations broke out across the country just after Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis announced new measures including mandatory health care worker vaccinations and mandatory inoculations for all people who wish to dine indoors or enter cultural institutions.

Immune-only venues and spaces in Greece will be only for those who have been fully vaccinated or have immunity through having had the virus in the last six months.

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 a rapid or PCR test for Covid.

The measures can apply to either indoor areas or open spaces that are likely to be crowded.

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