Corona protests: “That has nothing to do with freedom” – a pandemic of rage is raging in Europe
Düsseldorf, Rome, Brussels, Zurich, Vienna The “storm on the Reichstag” is still badly remembered in Berlin: When around 400 “lateral thinkers” demonstrators occupied the stairs in front of the Reichstag and waved the Reich flag at the end of August last year, this was long considered the shameful climax of the protests against the corona policy in this country State. Now it could get even worse.
Germany is not immune to this either: According to a survey by the “Covid-19 Snapshop Monitoring”, a joint project of the University of Erfurt, at the beginning of November a good 13 percent of those surveyed were willing to take part in a demonstration against restrictive measures of the corona policy.
At the beginning of November, around 1000 people demonstrated in Leipzig against new corona restrictions. In the event of a worsening pandemic, the danger increases that the crowd of discontented people will grow, who believe that “they will find a solution to their problems in conspiracy theories and upheaval fantasies”, then warned the Saxon Office for the Protection of the Constitution against the Central German Broadcasting Corporation.
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The demonstrators and rioters are still not united by a common political message other than their anger at new restrictions on freedom and growing vaccination pressure. Nevertheless, the protests should not be dismissed as a “carnival of crime” by corona hooligans, as a criminologist in the Netherlands recently did.
In many countries religious fundamentalism, libertarian criticism of the state, right-wing conspiracy theories and contempt for doctors and scientists are mixed in the mélange of revolt. “The violent, right-wing extremist scene uses the corona protests for their conspiracy theories against global elites and falls back on their existing organizational structures,” explains Roland Imhoff, Professor of Social and Legal Psychology at Johannes Gutenberg University in Mainz.
Netherlands: Youth rebellion against the state
The main scene of the protests so far has been the Netherlands. There, the corona revolts dragged through various cities and rural areas over several nights. Young men in particular took to the streets with great rage, smashed shop windows, destroyed bicycles, started fires and attacked the police with stones and firecrackers.
Street battles and burning cars even broke out in Rotterdam. The police had to fire warning shots and used water cannons. “I will never accept that idiots use pure violence against aid workers and emergency services with the excuse: We are dissatisfied,” said Prime Minister Mark Rutte
The reason for the unrest is a renewed partial lockdown in view of the sharp increase in the number of infections. Nationwide, the seven-day incidence is currently around 860. Restaurants, bars and supermarkets must close at 8 p.m. and other shops at 6 p.m. Private meetings are limited to four people.
The 3G rule applies to cultural events, visits to restaurants and sports facilities. There is still disagreement within the government as to whether this should be restricted to 2G. One reason: They fear even larger protests should unvaccinated people be completely excluded from public life. Rutte has already admitted that the corona pandemic has led to tension in society.
Belgium: chaos in the EU quarter
Last weekend 35,000 people gathered in Brussels to demonstrate against new corona measures and the 3G principle under the motto “Together for freedom”.
The initially peaceful protests turned into violence. Protesters threw parts of downtown Brussels and the EU quarter into chaos. Shop windows were smashed, cars damaged, barricades set on fire, police officers attacked.
It is particularly right-wing parties in the opposition that are fueling criticism of the government’s corona measures and inciting protests. “This is purely criminal behavior and it is absolutely disgusting,” said Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo about the events in Brussels. “That has nothing to do with freedom.”
In Belgium, the mask requirement was expanded again, and a home office was ordered four days a week. Specifically, children from the age of ten now also have to wear masks, previously there was an age limit of twelve years.
RKI reports 66,884 new corona cases – the incidence increases to 404.5
In addition, a mask must also be worn again at 3G events, for example at concerts, and in places outdoors where many people meet, such as weekly markets. The government emphasized in this regard that the focus is on prevention, not closings.
France: Riots in the overseas territories
In France, resentment against the government’s corona policy in the French overseas territories is turning into violence. The situation on the Caribbean island of Guadeloupe, which has around 400,000 inhabitants, is particularly tense.
Protesters set up roadblocks and looted shops and schools had to remain closed. The authorities imposed a night curfew. After days of rioting, Paris moved elite police and anti-terrorist units to Guadeloupe.
President Emmanuel Macron spoke of a “very explosive” situation. At the same time he made it clear: “We will not bow to lies, the distortion of information and the manipulation of the situation by some people.” On Tuesday, the current protests in Guadeloupe also spread to the neighboring island of Martinique.
A protest movement against the so-called “health passport”, which is used to control the 3G rules in the country, had already started in France in the summer. Nationwide, more than 200,000 people took to the streets on a few weekends. In the autumn, however, the protests weakened significantly.
The demonstrations were not only based on questions such as mandatory vaccination for health workers or the mandatory vaccination certificate for visiting restaurants. It is also about social and economic issues, said Olivier Serva, MP from Guadeloupe and party friend of Macron, the news channel France Info. “The youth in Guadeloupe are suffering. For them, unemployment is more than 50 percent. ”
Austria: New lockdown is perceived as a provocation
No country in Europe has recently taken such rigorous measures against the pandemic as Austria: Most recently, the government announced a tough lockdown and a general vaccination requirement.
It was a provocation for pandemic skeptics. Around 40,000 people demonstrated in Vienna last Saturday against the compulsory vaccination and the lockdown, which is expected to last until December 13th. It was one of the largest demonstrations in recent times.
A loose coalition of right-wing and right-wing extremist groups called for it: In addition to the right-wing populist FPÖ, the vaccine-skeptic party MFG (people, freedom, fundamental rights), which is represented in parliament in Upper Austria, had strongly mobilized.
Well-known neo-Nazis, soccer hooligans and identities were also present. However, there were also many “ordinary people” who marched with them, who consider the compulsory vaccination to be a disproportionate interference with their basic rights or who insist on an often somewhat diffuse concept of freedom.
Italy: Trieste becomes the epicenter of the protests
For weeks Italians have been gathering in public places across the country to protest against the government’s “Green Pass”. This 3G proof has been needed in public life since September, for example for restaurants, the theater or long-distance trains, and since mid-October also in the entire world of work. Most of the protests are peaceful, and usually only a few thousand people gather.
In early October, however, a demonstration in Rome escalated when a right-wing extremist-led mob moved into the city center and attacked the headquarters of the trade union federation CGIL, windows were destroyed and offices were vandalized.
The protests have been strongest in Trieste from the start. Initially, only the dock workers demonstrated, many of whom did not want to be vaccinated and who asked for free tests. In the meantime, the city on the Croatian border has become the epicenter of vaccination and “Green Pass” opponents, and Italians from other regions also travel to the demonstrations.
The protests could even increase in the coming weeks: Italy is considering only allowing 2G for public life soon. Unvaccinated people would then be extremely restricted, the 3G regulation would then only continue to apply to the world of work – but still with tests that are subject to a fee. Unlike in other countries, tests in Italy were never free, they cost 15 euros, which critics see as compulsory vaccination through the back door.
Switzerland: referendum on Corona passport
In Switzerland, the dispute over the corona measures will be carried out at the ballot box. Next Sunday, the Confederates will vote on an amendment to the Swiss Covid Act.
The Federal Council expanded the law in March 2021, thus laying the foundations for the 3G certificate requirement, which applies in many parts of public life in Switzerland. The “No” camp wants to overturn the obligation to provide evidence of having been vaccinated, recovered or tested with the referendum.
The initiative, which is also supported by the right-wing conservative Swiss People’s Party, speaks out against the “certificate, discrimination and mass surveillance”. Last weekend, thousands gathered, including in Zurich and Lausanne, to protest against the Covid law. Compared to other European countries, Switzerland has rather lax rules. Despite the increasing number of cases, tightening has not yet been an issue.
The Covid law also divides entrepreneurs, as a recent dispute at the private equity giant Partners Group showed. Urs Wielisbacher, one of the three founders of the billionaire company, donated money to an initiative that campaigns for a no to the Covid law.
When this became known, the Partners Group was forced to express its support for the federal corona measures. It is unlikely that the Covid law will overturn. The resistance to the law should not go silent, however.
More: More and more prime ministers are calling for mandatory vaccinations – several countries are tightening corona rules