Home / Politics / News /  New covid-19 restrictions spark protests across Europe
Listen to this article

Europeans are staging protests against new Covid-19 restrictions intended to stem an upsurge in the pandemic, with violence flaring overnight in the Netherlands.

On Saturday in Austria and Italy, people upset with renewed constraints marched to show their opposition. More protests were planned elsewhere in Europe.

Protests in Rotterdam against new Dutch Covid-19 restrictions turned violent Friday night, and police said they arrested 51 people, fired warning shots and used water cannons to control rioters who pelted officers with rocks, burned cars and set off powerful fireworks

Violent protests against restrictions also occurred across the Netherlands in January.

Dutch police said Saturday that order had been restored around midnight following much damage. They added more arrests were likely after police from around the country were dispatched to the port city.

Seven people were injured, two of whom hit by bullets and remained hospitalized, police said. The National Criminal Investigation Department is investigating whether the bullet wounds were from rounds fired by police, as is routine in the Netherlands, Dutch police said on Twitter. Police officers were also injured, they said.

The riot began amid a peaceful gathering of roughly 100 protesters. “The atmosphere quickly became grim," the police said on a live blog. Rioters threw stones at police and set off powerful fireworks, prompting police to lock down the area and close the city’s central train station, the police said.

Police used water cannons and fired warning shots to control rioters when the violence grew dangerous, the police said. About half of the 51 people arrested were underage, police said, and came from across the country.

On Saturday afternoon, live-streamed images on the website of Austria’s populist Freedom Party showed crowds of protesters gathered in Vienna’s Heldenplatz, near the federal chancellery and the residence of President Alexander Van der Bellen, and on downtown streets. Most of the demonstrators appeared to be unmasked. Some carried signs or banners with slogans such as “lies have short legs."

The Vienna protests, which police said included around 35,000 participants, were largely peaceful. Police said that about a dozen people were arrested after incidents involving rocks and bottles thrown at police and smoke-bombs, such as the ones used at soccer stadiums.

Some protesters chanted antivaccination, and antigovernment slogans, and others carried placards with messages such as “Vaccine coercion—no thanks!" and “This is how it started in 1938," in reference to the Nazi takeover of Austria.

Police said that some people were reported for carrying yellow Stars of David, a Jewish symbol, with “unvaccinated" written over them in reference to Nazi persecution of Jews. In Austria, using Nazi insignia and symbolism is prohibited by law.

Authorities also reported large turnout at vaccination centers across Austria. Vienna authorities said they registered a record number of daily vaccinations—over 30,000—on Friday, when new measures were announced.

Austria’s government on Friday announced an anti-Covid lockdown that will restrict most people to their homes for up to 20 days starting Monday. Shops, bars and businesses such as hairdressers were overwhelmed in anticipation of the lockdown that will see all nonessential businesses shuttered.

Conservative Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg also announced that Austria will become the first European country to require all citizens to receive the Covid vaccine, by February of next year, in order to participate in most aspects of public life, including working outside the home.

“Despite months of campaigning and discussions, we have not managed to convince enough people to get vaccinated," Mr. Schallenberg said in a televised press conference.

The country’s populist Freedom Party called for the protests on Saturday. The vaccine mandate means “throwing the basis of our federal constitution overboard and leading the country into a dictatorship. … We cannot and must not put up with that," FPÖ leader Herbert Kickl said on Friday.

In Italy, where protests have taken place on weekends for several weeks, demonstrations were expected in Rome and Milan. Since last month, Italy has required all employees to possess a so-called Green Pass, demonstrating that they have received a Covid-19 vaccine, tested negative or recovered from the virus. Since last weekend, those protesting the requirement have been banned from city centers.

Most of Europe is experiencing a resurgence of coronavirus infections, though Southern European countries have seen cases rise too, but from a lower base. Some regions of Germany with high case and hospitalization rates said Thursday that they would go into lockdown next week.


This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text

Subscribe to Mint Newsletters
* Enter a valid email
* Thank you for subscribing to our newsletter.

Never miss a story! Stay connected and informed with Mint. Download our App Now!!

Edit Profile
Get alerts on WhatsApp
My ReadsRedeem a Gift CardLogout