• Tuesday, Sep 21, 2021
  • Last Update : 12:40 am

Big protests mark global anger at Covid restrictions

  • Published at 02:29 pm July 25th, 2021
Italy
Protesters take part in a demonstration on Piazza Duomo in Milan on July 24, 2021, against the introduction of a mandatory ‘green pass’ for indoor dining and entertainment area, in the aim to limit the spread of the Covid-19 AFP

People take to the streets in Australia, France, Italy and the UK in protests against lockdowns and vaccine pass schemes

More than 100,000 people protested in Australia, France, Italy and Greece on Saturday, sparking clashes with police as they railed against Covid-19 measures and government sanctions against the unvaccinated aimed at prodding more people into getting jabs. 

Dozens of protesters were arrested after an unauthorized march in Sydney, with the city's police minister branding those who took part as "morons."

Organizers had dubbed the protest a "freedom" rally. Attendees carried signs and banners reading "Wake up Australia" and "Drain the Swamp."

In France, where police deployed teargas and water cannon against some protesters, an estimated 160,000 took to the streets in nationwide protests against President Emmanuel Macron's health pass that will drastically curtail access to restaurants and public spaces for unvaccinated people.

Police arrest a protester at a rally in Sydney as thousands of people gathered to demonstrate against the city's month-long stay-at-home orders on July 24, 2021 AFP

'Don't touch our children'

"Freedom, freedom," chanted demonstrators in France, carrying placards denouncing "Macron, Tyrant," "Big Pharma shackles freedom" or saying "No to the pass of shame."

The demonstrations highlight the conflict globally between people caught between the advice of the World Health Organization and other public health agencies and the need to earn a living -- or simply to return to a pre-pandemic lifestyle.

In Indonesia and the UK, governments have pressed ahead with easing of restrictions even in the face of surging.

Meanwhile, around 5,000 people demonstrated in Athens, carrying placards touting slogans such as, "Don't touch our children", according to an AFP journalist at the scene.

And in Italy protesters gathered in Rome to demonstrate against a mandatory "green pass" for indoor dining and entertainment.

Earlier in Sydney, demonstrators pelted officers with pot plants and bottles of water as they defied a month-long stay-at-home order, a day after authorities suggested the restrictions could remain in place until October.

New South Wales state Premier Gladys Berejiklian said she was "utterly disgusted" by the protesters whose "selfish actions have compromised the safety of all of us."

Police said they issued nearly 100 fines and arrested 57 people. In Melbourne, meanwhile, six people were arrested. police said.

A protestor holds a puppet depicting Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro during a demonstration, in Rio de Janeiro on July 24, 2021 /AFP

'Morons'

New South Wales Police Minister David Elliott said a team of detectives would be scouring footage to identify and charge as many people as possible in the coming days.

"Sydney isn't immune from morons," he said.

Sydney, a city of over five million people, is struggling to contain an outbreak of the Delta variant, first identified in India and now spreading globally.

After escaping much of the early pandemic unscathed, around half of Australia's 25 million people are now in lockdown across several cities.

There is growing anger at the restrictions and the conservative government's failure to provide adequate vaccine supplies. Just 11% of the population is fully vaccinated.

In France, as elsewhere in Europe, the government is making it harder for reluctant citizens to put off getting the jabs.

Legislation now being considered by lawmakers will make vaccinations compulsory for certain professions, while the controversial health pass will severely restrict social life for holdouts from the end of July. 

On Saturday, tens of thousands of Brazilians took to the streets to demand the impeachment of President Jair Bolsonaro, who is facing increasing pressure as the pandemic exacts a devastating toll.

It was the fourth weekend of protests called by leftist political parties, labour unions and social groups against Bolsonaro, who is being investigated for allegedly turning a blind eye to a scheme to embezzle government funds in the purchase of vaccines.

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