Wearing masks and clad in black, hundreds of small business owners and workers took to the streets of Toulouse, France, to stage a visually striking protest against coronavirus lockdown measures.

Protests against fresh lockdown rules have broken out in a number of European countries in recent weeks. In France, where the government shut “non-essential” businesses last Friday, shopkeepers and business owners have sounded the alarm that the restrictions could kill their trade.

In Toulouse on Friday, hundreds of these owners and workers gathered at Place du Capitole in the city center. Socially distanced and clad head to toe in black, the masked demonstrators chanted “we are essential!”

A #Toulouse près d’un millier de commerçants, cafetiers, restaurateurs, gérants de discothèques, de salles de sport, professionnels de la culture et autres métiers menacés manifestent sur la Place du Capitole contre les restrictions

Hairdressers, waiters, artists, technicians, caterers and shopkeepers were among those involved in the demonstration, France Bleu reported.

Place du Capitole pour soutenir l’économie toulousaine et l’ensemble des commerçants considérés comme « non essentiels ».Le gouvernement doit prendre la mesure de la situation. Si rien n’est fait 60% des entreprises déposeront le bilan à Toulouse !

France is currently suffering from both economic downturn and spiralling coronavirus infections. Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said last week that he expects the country’s economy – already in recession since April – to contract by 15 percent during the new lockdown. 

Meanwhile, daily new cases of Covid-19 have skyrocketed, with health officials on Friday reporting a record 60,486 new cases over a 24-hour period. More than 1.6 million cases and 39,000 deaths have been reported in France since the pandemic began.

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