Macron assures opponents that a vaccination passport will safeguard all of our liberties

Travelers were required to carry a "bill of health" when the Great Plague ravaged Marseille in 1720, killing more than half of the city's inhabitants, and ships arriving at the Mediterranean port were quarantined for 40 days. As a major commercial hub, the city tried to strike a careful balance between stopping the disease's spread and jeopardizing important trade.

President Emmanuel Macron is walking an equally perilous tightrope only eight months before seeking re-election in April 2022, 300 years later. Macron, unlike the old Marseillais, must deal with social media. For the fourth weekend in a row, France's contentious pass sanitaire will be extended in order to force the final tranche of hardcore vaccine skeptics to be vaccinated, sparking protests across the country. According to estimates from the interior ministry, more than 200,000 people attended a protest last week.

The protests have brought together those from the extreme left, far right, and all points in between. While there has been a minimal protest to the imposition of face masks, opponents are adamant that the pass sanitaire breaches the most fundamental of French principles: the national motto's liberté and egalité. Gilets Jaunes and a motley crew of anarchists, conspiracy theorists, and those who would equate the French president to Adolf Hitler and his centrist administration to Nazis joined them in Paris yesterday.

The demonstrators had hoped that the constitutional council, a nine-member group chosen by the president and the leaders of both chambers of parliament to review new laws, would prevent the pass from being extended. They were going to be let down. The council's "sages" approved the constitutional validity of virtually all of the proposed new measures on Thursday.

“The constitutional council has authorized a two-tier society where there are two kinds of individuals who do not have the same rights, depending on their vaccination status,” Julien Odoul, a rising star of the far-right Rassemblement National, stated afterward. "This is Macron's society, which we despise and reject. Liberty and equality are sacrosanct principles.”

Jean-Luc Mélenchon, a presidential contender from the far left, concurred, calling the health pass "absurd, unjust, and dictatorial." Macron asked his fellow citizens to remember the motto's third part, fraternité, and to "accept these collective rules... and be vaccinated."

The pass sanitaire, which was passed by French MPs last month and is set to expire on September 30, already required those going to movies, theatres, museums, or larger public events to show proof of being fully vaccinated, having a negative Covid test, or having had and recovered from the coronavirus. This will be extended starting on August 9th. Passengers traveling long distances by rail or bus, as well as visitors to nursing homes and hospitals, will require the permit unless they are in a medical emergency.

The government maintains that no one will be obliged to be vaccinated – except for health and nursing care employees starting next month – but they will undoubtedly be coerced. It doesn't take much to get the French out on the streets, leading to exaggerated predictions from abroad that France is on the verge of another deadly revolution.