The yellow star worn by French protesters over the weekend is a reference to the yellow stars that the Nazis forced Jews to wear for identification purposes in the 1930s and early 1940s.
SOPA Images / Getty
France has suffered three national bans and its president wants to fend off a fourth. To that end, President Emmanuel Macron last week introduced a “health passport” system that will soon require citizens to be vaccinated against COVID-19 so they can visit cafes, restaurants, shopping malls and more.
The announcement led to an increase in vaccinations – but also to mass protests across the country over the weekend.
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According to the BBC, over 100,000 citizens took to the streets to express their anger over the new rules. Some protested by wearing yellow stars on their clothing, often with the words “not vaccinated” in the center, a reference to the means Nazis used to identify Jews in the 1930s and 1940s.
Holocaust survivor Joseph Szwarc condemned the settlement on Sunday at a ceremony commemorating anti-Semitic crimes in Nazi-occupied France. “I wore the star, I know what it is,” he said in comments translated by AP. “I still have it in my flesh. It is everyone’s duty not to let this monstrous, anti-Semitic, racist wave pass over us.”
Should we remind these idiots that the yellow star was often the passport to extermination in the gas chambers? We have the right to object, but not like that! Unfortunately, we don’t have a vaccine against bullshit. pic.twitter.com/hos3OxkDSd
– Olivier Falorni (@OlivierFalorni) July 18, 2021
Large-scale protests across France will continue through the weekend calling for Macron’s resignation after he announced that all “bars, restaurants, amusement parks, shopping malls, trains, buses and planes” require a digital health passport. com / amCrZHYzox
– Michael P. Senger (@MichaelPSenger) July 17, 2021
The iconography of the yellow star had previously been used at anti-vaccine rallies in Germany, which in May led the country’s anti-Semitism commissioner to demand illegal use in such protests, the BBC reported.
With 40% of the French population fully vaccinated, the country’s leaders are now shifting their focus from getting a vaccine to encouraging reluctant citizens to use it. A December 2020 poll found that only 42% of French people would get a vaccination if it was available to them, The Economist reported, although that number rose to 56% by the end of January when world leaders started to get vaccinated in public. France has been hard hit by COVID-19 as only four countries – the US, India, Brazil and Russia – have registered more cases.
The US is also fighting against vaccination hesitation. Over 99% of COVID-19 deaths in the past week were those who weren’t vaccinated, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said. “This is becoming a pandemic for the unvaccinated,” said CDC director Rochelle Walensky last Friday.
Gabriel Attal, a spokesman for the French government, criticized the “absolutely pathetic comparisons” on Monday and said the government would “not give in to a dictatorship of images and outrageous words,” according to the AP. According to the health passport rules, access to “cultural and leisure facilities” such as cinemas and museums requires either a vaccination or a recent negative COVID-19 test. In August, cafes, restaurants, shopping malls, hospitals, nursing homes and long-distance travel will be added to the program.
“Depending on how the situation develops, we will undoubtedly have to ask ourselves whether vaccinations will become compulsory for all French people,” said Macron last week.
Kiran Ridley / Stringer
Other protesters waved signs describing the health passport as “health apartheid” over the weekend, comparing it to the South African system of white rule, which gave black and multiracial citizens fewer rights until 1994. These signs reflected a comment from a French member of. Against the European Parliament last week, which said in a now-deleted tweet that the health passport was “apartheid in the land of human rights”.
Protests against the health passport resulted in at least two COVID-19 vaccine clinics being destroyed, one of which was found on fire in what police are treating as attempted arson. But while the health pass got over 100,000 citizens to voice their opposition publicly, it pushed far more towards vaccination clinics. Around 1.7 million vaccination appointments were booked in the 24 hours after Macron’s speech, reports Reuters.