Healthcare marches in France spark clashes but also support

Healthcare workers across France protested against a lack of hospital funding yesterday, prompting violence in some places; but heartwarming scenes in others, as some police supported the protesters.

17 June 2020
By Connexion journalist

Healthcare workers were called by several unions to march yesterday (Tuesday June 16), to demand better funding for hospitals and healthcare, and a rise in pay.

Union CGT said that there had been thousands present across 250 marches nationwide. These included nurses, care assistants, care home workers doctors, and at-home carers.

Many said that despite having been “clapped” and lauded as heroes during the peak of the Covid-19 crisis, they already feel abandoned and left behind.

Some violence

In Paris, several thousand marched in front of the health ministry on Avenue de Ségur. Some violence erupted, during what police said was an otherwise “peaceful protests by carers”, with 32 people arrested.

Most of the violence appeared to come from a “pre-march” of people ahead of the main protest, who were “aggressive towards law enforcement” and damaged vehicles and buildings.

These elements did not have the support of healthcare workers. Patrick Pelloux, president of emergency doctor group l'Association des Médecins Urgentistes Hospitaliers de France said that the violent individuals were “just hooligans; ultra-violent idiots”.

Some violence erupted in Nantes, where around a thousand people marched peacefully in front of the CHU hospital. Some violent groups attempted to disrupt the protest, police said.

On its Twitter account, the Police Nationale de Loire-Atlantique said that the clashes had been perpetrated by “hostile individuals” and that “a violent group threw projectiles at the law enforcement officers”.


Marches nationwide

There were also marches of between several hundred to several thousand people in Bordeaux, Bayonne, Mont-de-Marsan, Périgueux and Guéret (Nouvelle-Aquitaine); Toulouse (Occitanie); Marseille, Avignon (Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur); Strasbourg, Mulhouse, Metz, Epinal (Grand Est); Grenoble, Chambéry, Clermont-Ferrand (Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes); Nantes, Saint-Nazaire, Laval, Mans (Pays de la Loire); Dijon (Bourgogne-Franche-Comté); and Orléans and Châteauroux (Centre-Val-de-Loire).

Protesters carried banners with messages such as: “Fewer slogans, more euros”; “More euros for the heroes” and “In homage to our Covid victims, never again”.

Some carried banners reading “Hôpital asphyxié (suffocated hospital) / I can’t breathe”, in reference to the Black Lives Matter movement protests that have been taking place around the world in recent weeks.

Others had banners against the “Ségur” healthcare debates currently taking place on the issue of the health service organisation and workers’ salaries.

Read more: 'Ségur de la santé' bids to reform French healthcare

(Photo: Twitter / @KartMaxJ)

Police support

In Nîmes and Lille, there were heartwarming scenes as police tasked with controlling the march themselves began to applaud the protesters.

A video filmed by a police officer present in Nîmes showed CRS officers taking off their helmets, placing them on the ground, and beginning to applaud the healthcare workers.

The workers then did the same back to the police, with chants of “Tous ensemble! Tous ensemble! (All together! All together!)”. Sirens were also played to show support as more protesters gathered, and some workers laid down their white jackets in front of the police in solidarity.

Similar scenes were filmed in Lille, where police had been ordered to secure the surroundings of the town’s Place de la République.

Police applauded as protesters walked past.

Related stories

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Health staff get pay rise after new investment
France legalises protests despite ongoing health emergency
Thousands protest racism in France despite Covid-19
20,000 protest police violence in France

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