Large protests underway in many cities of Australia, France, England, and Italy against Covid restrictions, vaccine passports, and mandatory vaccinations.
French protesters march against vaccine mandates and passes
Some 160,000 people in France protested Saturday across the country against a bill requiring everyone to have a special virus pass to enter restaurants and mandating COVID-19 vaccinations for all health care workers.
Similar protests were held in neighboring Italy.
Police fired water cannons and tear gas on rowdy protesters in Paris, although most gatherings were orderly.
Legislators in France’s Senate were debating the virus bill Saturday after the lower house of parliament approved it on Friday, as virus infections are spiking and hospitalizations are rising. The French government wants to speed up vaccinations to avoid any new lockdown.
Protesters chanting “Liberty! Liberty!” gathered at Bastille plaza and marched through eastern Paris in one of several demonstrations Saturday around France. Thousands also joined a gathering across the Seine River from the Eiffel Tower organized by a former top official in Marine Le Pen’s anti-immigration party.
To get the pass, people need to be fully vaccinated, have a recent negative test or have proof they recently recovered from the virus. French lawmakers are divided over how far to go in imposing health passes or mandatory vaccinations.
Thousands of anti-vaccine protesters gather in London
Thousands of anti-lockdown and anti-vaccine protesters gathered in central London for a “Worldwide rally for freedom” – five days after restrictions were lifted in England.
At the end of the rally, protesters marched from Trafalgar Square along Whitehall to Parliament Square. Police said one demonstrator was arrested outside Downing Street after throwing a bottle at officers.
Similar protests were held in Belfast, Birmingham and Manchester, where hundreds of protesters chanted “shame on you” at police officers.
In Dublin around 1,500 protesters gathered outside Custom House before walking through the city holding anti-vaccine signs and chanting “freedom”.
One speaker at the rally claimed the vaccine programme was “genocide”, adding: “If people are coming to your door then you have to protect yourself from the needle because it’s coming and they are coming for your kids. They are coming to kill you and that’s the end of it.”
The organisers of the “World Wide Rally for Freedom” claimed that protests would take place in more than 180 cities across the world.
They said they were protesting against continued coronavirus restrictions, mask rules, compulsory vaccinations and vaccine passports.
“Authoritarian coronavirus restrictions have damaged our lives more than any virus has, and even if the effects of the virus were more damaging, the restrictions to our freedoms would still have been unjust and unlawful,” the group said.
An estimated 160,000 people took part in protests in France against new laws introducing vaccine passports and compulsory jabs for healthcare workers.
Italy faces wave of Green Pass protests
Demonstrations against Italy’s new covid Green Pass rules are planned in more than 80 towns and cities across the country on Saturday 24 July, starting everywhere at 17.30.
The rallies, organized via social media, are against the so-called Green Pass which will soon be mandatory for indoor dining in restaurants and for access to cultural and sporting venues.
The protests follow the ‘No Paura Day’ (No Fear Day) rally in Turin which attracted several thousand people on Thursday night, hours after premier Mario Draghi unveiled the new Green Pass restrictions.
The health pass, in use in Italy since June, shows that people have been vaccinated, tested negative or recovered from Covid-19, and is available in both digital and paper format.
Protesters plan to demonstrate against what they define variously as “passport slavery and the obligation to vaccinate,” the “covid scam” and the “dictatorship of the Green Pass,” reports news agency ANSA.
There are reportedly demonstrations planned today in major Italian cities including Bergamo, Bologna, Florence, Genoa, Milan, Naples, Palermo, Rome and once again in Turin, according to La Stampa newspaper.
Greek police clash with protesters in rally against mandatory vaccinations
Greek police used teargas and water cannon to disperse people who had gathered in central Athens on Saturday to protest against mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations.
More than 4,000 people rallied outside the Greek parliament for a third time this month to oppose mandatory inoculations for some workers, such as healthcare and nursing staff.
A police official, who asked not to be named, said some protesters had thrown petrol bombs, prompting the police to respond with tear gas.
Greece has ordered the vaccination of healthcare and nursing home staff as cases have risen and urged school teachers to get the shot in time for the start of the school year in September.
Vaccine protests at Slovak parliament
Protesters against vaccine rules blocked entry to Slovakia’s parliament on Friday. The crowds in the capital Bratislava were protesting against new rules – set to be passed by parliament – which would exempt people vaccinated against COVID-19 from some of the country’s restrictions.
Prime Minister Eduard Heger said he sympathised with those tired of the measures, but the rules were in place “to protect the lives of all Slovak citizens – even those protesters”.
Hundreds join anti-vaccine protest in Chile
Anti-vaccination activists held an unruly protest outside the private home of Prime Minister Naftali Bennett Friday, a day after the premier accused those refusing COVID shots of endangering the entire nation.
Dozens of protesters blocked the road and chanted slogans against Bennett, eventually managing to reach the edge of the protected zone around the prime minister’s Ra’anana home, police said.
Five people were arrested for disturbing the peace and refusing police orders as officers attempted to disperse the crowd.
Video from the protest showed minor scuffles between protesters and police officers.
“The protesters made it up to the entrance of the guarded area of the home and were so close that the Shin Bet refused to allow the protest to continue,” a police official told Haaretz.
Anti-lockdown protesters hold ‘freedom rallies’ in Australia
Protesters are massing in capital cities around Australia to object to lockdowns prompted by COVID-19.
Thousands of angry, unmasked people marched from inner Sydney’s Victoria Park to Town Hall in the central business district on Saturday.
They broke through a police barrier before continuing down George Street but were met by a heavy police presence, including mounted police and riot officers.
Protesters – who were seen carrying signs calling for “freedom” and “the truth” – threw plastic bottles and plants taken from the street at officers, and several arrests have already been made.
NSW Police said a high-visibility policing operation was launched in response to the unauthorised protest in order to ensure the “safety of participants, as well as the community and local businesses”.
“The NSW Police Force recognises and supports the rights of individuals and groups to exercise their rights of free speech and peaceful assembly, however, today’s protest is in breach of the current COVID-19 Public Health Orders,” NSW Police said.
“The priority for NSW Police is always the safety of the wider community.”
As attendees disperse, movement out of the city will be facilitated down George Street, police said.
16% of people in France do not want Covid vaccine, new study finds
Sixteen percent of people who participated in a recent survey in France have declared that they have no intention of getting vaccinated against Covid-19.
The study, carried out on behalf of newspaper Les Echos between July 13 to 15, surveyed 1,002 people aged 18 and over from around France.
It found that working-class people were twice as likely to refuse the vaccination than people from higher socio-professional demographics.
Supporters of the extreme right-wing political party Rassemblement National are also twice as likely as supporters of other parties to be against Covid vaccine, with 29% of their supporters polled saying they do not intend to get vaccinated.
The study showed that more generally, 10% of people asked said they had not yet been vaccinated but intended to, while 8% had not yet made a decision.
Around two-thirds of adults in France, those aged over 18, have received at least one dose of a Covid vaccine.