Bastille Day: Protests As France Gives Tribute To Health Workers

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Above photo: French health workers attend a demonstration on the Bastille Day in Paris to urge the French government to improve wages and invest in public hospital in the wake of the coronavirus. Reuters/Gonzalo Fuentes. 

Healthcare staff protested in France as the country celebrated Bastille Day, marked by a ceremony celebrating frontline workers during the coronavirus outbreak.

Unions called for demonstrations after they said a new deal that gives a pay rise to health and care workers did not go far enough to help the sector.

Protests for improved wages and investment in public hospitals took place in Paris on Tuesday, where nurses in white coats replaced the usual uniformed soldiers in the capital’s Bastille Day celebration, as the country paid tribute to frontline workers in the fight against Covid-19.

In the 14 July ceremony, medical staff stood silently as lengthy applause rang out over the Place de la Concorde from around 2,000 guests, including Emmanuel Macron, the French president, and the head of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

A military choir sang the Marseillaise national anthem, and troops unfurled an enormous French tricolour flag across the plaza.

However, as the event unfurled in central Paris, activists flew banners overhead which read: “Behind the tributes, Macron is suffocating hospitals” and “Savings cost us lives”.

Elsewhere in the capital, thousands of people took part in a protest calling for greater support for healthcare workers and the sector, proceeding towards Bastille plaza, where the French Revolution was born on the same day in 1789.

Medical workers’ unions marched to decry cost cuts, and equipment and staff shortages that plagued public hospitals as the virus raced across the country.

One woman dressed in hospital gear held a sign saying: “Devoted, but underappreciated.”

Sylvie Pecard, a protester and nurse in Paris, said: ”We are enormously short of personnel.” She described colleagues falling ill with the virus as Covid-19 patients filled its wards.

“It’s because we haven’t recruited nurses,” she said. “I came here 20 years ago and there were no empty positions. Now all the services are short of personnel, and it’s worse and worse.”

Some unions have not thrown their support behind France’s new deal for healthcare workers, which has promised to dedicate nearly €8bn (£7.2bn) for pay rises.

Jean Castex, the new prime minister, branded the agreement a “historic moment for the health system”.

However, a group of unions called for people to mobilise on 14 July against the “sham” deal, which they suggested does not go far enough to fix problems in the health service.

Health and care workers will see their wages rise by an average of $183 (£165) each month under the plan.

“These salary increases do not match our demands,” Thomas Laurent, a nurse at a Lyon hospital and Inter Urgences union member, told France24.

Mr Castex said the deal – which was signed by union leaders – was “first of all recognition of those who have been on the frontline in the fight against this epidemic”.

He added: “It is also a way of catching up for years of delay, for which each and every one – including perhaps myself – has their share of responsibility.”

France has seen more than 207,000 coronavirus infections over the course of its outbreak, and had a death total of around 30,000 as of Tuesday.

Mr Macron has said wearing masks will become compulsory in all enclosed public spaces in the next few weeks, as the country continues its fight against the spread of the disease.

Lockdown measures have started being eased across the country, however there are signs that Covid-19 is returning somewhat.

Additional reporting by agencies

  • Alan MacDonald

    Twenty-six-year-old Donavan LaBella, it turns out is almost exactly 50 years younger than I am.

    the memo that I sent to my gutless, useless, entrenched, and ‘dollar
    drenched’ Maine Democratic Party — during their piss-hole in the snow
    self-serving efforts to Get out the Vote but Ignore the effin EMPIRE:

    Thanks, Lisa, [Roberts, Executive Director, ME DEMS, Maine Democratic Party]

    Except for your dozens of alerts, I would probably have forgotten to vote in
    the primary today — since I was thinking the election was months
    away on November 3rd.

    Just kidding!

    But here’s something I’m not kidding about at all, because it is now going
    viral, like a shot to the head:

    Just yesterday an event happened in Portland (Oregon), which was reported on Amy
    Goodman’s Free Speech TV show “Democracy Now” (which you may
    watch, as I do to get partially serious progressive news):

    What Amy reported is that a young protestor — like me but 50 years younger — was
    holding up a protest sign, which I do each week in Portland Maine at
    Congress and High in front of the TEGNA (private equity pirate) WCSH
    News 6 TV propagandist station (and Sundays at Portsmouth NH).

    But the real insight and ‘Woke’ aspect of what happened in Portland Oregon is this:

    That young and peaceful protestor holding the sign across the street (probably 100
    yards) from a Court House, must have been saying something on his
    sign that one of the jack-booted domestic Armed Forces; ICE, HOMELAND
    SECURITY, or what might be more accurately called the SA (perhaps,
    ‘Safety Army‘ which wasn’t much different than Hitler’s
    domestic SA) actually fired a supposedly semi-leathal round (perhaps
    a soft-sounding ‘beanbag’, or perhaps a rubber sheathed/jacketed
    metal round, like the IDF uses by the millions on Palestinian kids
    who protest their ‘Occupation’) by a foreign Army.

    But something must have gone wrong because the supposedly non-leathal round had
    essentially the same ballistics as the National Guard M-14s at Kent
    State, but less bloody that a ‘pop the grape’ shot from a Barrett
    .50 cal rifle, and the errant shot or error shot, knocked the crap
    out of the U.S. Citizen protester and instantly dropping him like a
    beanbag with critical head and face injuries with the force from this
    semi-legal force, that looked exactly like an Army.

    Amy reported that Senator Ron Wyden said “Trump
    & Homeland Security must now answer why federal officers are
    acting like an ‘occupying army’? Good question, Ron, but
    what should you call it?

    This question by a semi-‘Woke’ Senator caused my involuntary and
    automatic “Analogy-thinking” brain [George Lakoff UC Berkeley] to
    immediately retrieve “occupying army” references, and the top
    thing in my ‘register stack’ to process shot back the analogy
    link of the Second World War of Empires example of the Nazi Empire’s
    “Occupying Army” in Vichy France — since that is the only
    sufficient matching example of a “Great Power’s Army to have
    ‘Occupied’ another major power having recently occurred.
    Of course, any HS student might have answered that our own becoming
    country in the ‘New World’ of America might have answered that a
    good example of an “Occupying Army” was the British Empire, but
    the latest example is the Nazi Empire — at least with respect to
    Major countries, unlike mere Soviet satellites, and unlike the little
    countries that America has ‘Occupied’ under R2P (responsibility
    to protect, and other euphemisms for seven decades).

    But the only modern “Occupying Army” in the world today — to help
    Senator Wyden answer his own question about an “Occupying Army”
    being deployed in Portland, Oregon, USA — is to call-out bravely
    and in a truly Revolutionary way, for Wyden to say:

    Oh, oh, Yes, this must be an example of the Disguised Global Crony
    Capitalist EMPIRE, HQed right here, but only ‘posing’ as our
    formerly “promising” and sometimes progressive country (PKA)
    America unleashing the hard and soft powers of this DGCCEmpire on ‘we
    the people’ (unlike citizens) right in the metropole of the EMPIRE

    As Prof. Robinson first and accurately diagnosed of this Disguised
    Global Crony Capitalist EMPIRE in his 2014 book:

    “The U.S. state is a key point of condensation for pressures
    from dominant groups around the world to resolve problems of
    global capitalism and to secure the legitimacy of the system
    overall. In this regard, “U.S.” imperialism refers to
    the use by transnational elites of the U.S. state apparatus
    (hard & soft powers) to continue to attempt to expand, defend,
    and stabilize the global capitalist system. We are
    witness less to a “U.S.” imperialism per se than to a global
    capitalist imperialism. We face an EMPIRE OF GLOBAL CAPITAL,
    headquartered, for evident historical reasons, in
    Washington.” [Caps added]

    Global Capitalism and the Crisis of Humanity, 2014 Robinson, William Cambridge
    University Press

    “Show me what democracy looks like”

    “This ain’t what democracy looks like”

    “This is what EMPIRE looks like”

    Which is why my newer demonstration, march, and protest signs since 2017 have simply
    said on two sides to join Bernie in:

    “Our Revolution”

    and on the other side:

    GET ‘WOKE’ &
    ‘FOLK’ THE

    So, yes, Lisa, I now understand why voting is so important, and I will vote.

    But when voting is useless (which it looks like after 10 ‘least worst voting’ cycles), I
    will be first in the line to recognize that we really must fire a;
    loud, public, sustained, ‘in-the-streets’, but totally
    non-violent “Shout (not shot) heard round the world” to again
    ignite an essential Second American people’s peaceful and completed
    “Political/economic & socialist Revolution Against Empire” —
    similar to our First “Revolution Against Empire” [Justin du
    Rivage’s definitive history of our first one — but without the

    Liberty, democracy, justice & equality
    Violent (and dual-party Vichy)


  • Sabrina

    Peacefully holding a sign is never license to have your head busted open. You sure said a lot of words but whose side are you on?

  • Alan MacDonald

    I’m Anti-Empire and pro-democracy — which are the only two positions available in this world, Eh?