Tens of thousands of protesters took to the streets in European countries over the weekend to demonstrate against COVID-19 vaccine mandates after EU governments in recent days started to ramp up restrictions.
In Austria, tens of thousands of people took to the streets in Vienna, Salzburg, and other cities after the Austrian government announced a nationwide lockdown to deal with what it describes as a surge of COVID-19 cases. Austria’s lockdown, which follows a so-called “lockdown on the unvaccinated,” will start on Monday for an initial 10 days before government officials reevaluate it, meaning that people can only leave their homes for certain reasons, including going to the doctor, buying groceries, or exercising.
Starting Feb. 1, Austria’s government said it will make vaccines mandatory for everyone.
On Saturday, many waved Austrian flags while carrying signs with slogans such as “no to vaccination,” “enough is enough,” or “down with the fascist dictatorship.” Authorities said that in Vienna, the crowd surged to about 35,000 people.
right-wing Freedom Party’s head, Herbert Kickl, also told a crowd that “as of today, Austria is a dictatorship.” He then decried “totalitarian” measures from Austria’s government, which “believes it should think and decide for us.”
Meanwhile, five police officers were injured in the Netherlands and at least 40 people were detained across three provinces during protests on Saturday night and early Sunday morning. Dutch authorities used water cannons, dogs, and mounted police to stop individuals who set fires and threw fireworks at officers.
protests were sparked by opposition to government plans to restrict the use of a national COVID-19 vaccine passport to people who have either recovered from COVID-19 or have been vaccinated, now excluding those with a negative test result.
Dutch officials also reimposed lockdowns starting last weekend for an initial three weeks. Authorities again claimed that such moves would slow the spread of the virus, although studies have suggested that numerous lockdown efforts around the world have proven to be fruitless in slowing the spread of the COVID-19 or reducing deaths.
“People want to live, that’s why we’re here,” said organizer Joost Eras over the weekend. However, his group are “not rioters. We come in peace,” he said, distancing himself from chaos in Rotterdam last week.
Thousands also turned out in protests in Switzerland and Italy. Swiss protested a forthcoming referendum on whether to approve the government’s COVID-19 restrictions law, while Italians again demonstrated against the government’s “green pass” vaccine passport system.
Protests also were reported in Ireland, Croatia, France, the United Kingdom, and the French island territory of Guadeloupe, where demonstrators set police cars on fire and set up road blockades.
Reuters contributed to this report.
Pezou : Protests Erupt Against Lockdowns and Vaccine Mandates Across Europe