Thousands of people gathered on Saturday (20) in several European countries in acts of protest against new restrictions imposed by governments to curb the spread of the coronavirus pandemic. The main protests were in Germany, in which far-right and anti-vaccine groups gathered more than 20,000 people in the city of Kassel, where there were clashes with police.
Security forces used pepper spray, batons and water jets to disperse protesters who attempted to break a cordon made by police to separate the various groups participating in the protests.
“This is not what a peaceful protest should be,” the local police department wrote in a message on Twitter. “We will not tolerate attacks of this type.” For containment, federal agents from other parts of the country have also been dispatched to Kassel.
The acts have been labeled by the Querdenker movement (something like ‘lateral thinkers’), known to bring together those who consider measures to restrict trade and mobility during the pandemic to be unwarranted, mainly linked to the far right. and anti-vaccine groups.
Although there are specific rules on wearing masks and social detachment in German cities, most protesters did not follow them. According to the DPA news agency, several journalists who reported on the protests have been attacked, which occurs with some frequency in similar acts, as many participants are hostile to media professionals.
Coronavirus cases in Germany have again increased exponentially, according to the Robert Koch Institute, the country’s main epidemiological control body. As of Saturday, the country recorded more than 16,000 new infections and 207 deaths, bringing the total to 2.6 million cases and 74,600 deaths.
In Berlin, some 1,800 police were stationed awaiting protests, but only 500 protesters gathered at the Brandenburg Gate, one of the city’s main postcards.
Other acts have spread across Europe. In London, at least 13 people have been arrested in protests that have brought together some 10,000 people against the same rules that motivated the arrests.
On Saturday, a group of more than 60 British parliamentarians sent a letter to the Home Office, responsible for the country’s security, calling for street protests to be treated as an exception to the rule banning public meetings.
The ministry issued a statement in response saying that the stay-at-home order will remain in effect until March 29 and that, only when it expires, protests can resume.
“While we are still in a pandemic, we continue to urge people to avoid mass gatherings, in accordance with the broader restrictions on the coronavirus,” a government spokesperson said.
In Finland, around 400 people without masks encountered banners demanding free speech and questioned the pandemic figures released by the government. According to police in the capital, Helsinki, the acts were carried out peacefully, but violated the rules of social distancing. The same thing happened during protests in Romania, Austria and Switzerland.
In France, there were no reports of protests. On Friday, however, a crowd of Parisians filled stations and roads before the new lockdown that went into effect on Saturday. In the afternoon, the traffic information site Sytadin recorded 400 km of congested roads around the French capital.
Nearly a third of the French population will face at least a month of confinement after a rise in confirmed cases of coronavirus in Paris and elsewhere in the north of the country. The new set of restrictions covers Hautes de France, in the north of the country, and Île-de-France, which includes Paris.
The government of President Emmanuel Macron announced the new rules on Thursday (18). The restrictions are less stringent than those in effect during the two feedlots imposed in March and November of last year, raising doubts as to their effectiveness.
All establishments deemed non-essential had to close their doors. Stores that sell food, books, flowers and chocolate, as well as hairdressers and shoemakers, may remain open. Clothing, home decor and beauty salon businesses are set to shut down.
Bruno Le Maire, Minister of Finance, said 90,000 stores should close and defended the criteria on the list. “I am not saying that it is ideal, but we follow a simple logic: to guarantee the health of the French population and to preserve as much as possible the economic activity and the shops”, he declared, in an interview with Radio France Inter.
The moving average in the country has approached 30,000 daily cases, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. In addition, there are 4,246 patients hospitalized in intensive care, the highest number in the country since the end of November.
Residents of confined areas will be able to leave the house as many times as they wish, as long as they maintain a maximum radius of 30 kilometers from their home and complete a declaration stating their reasons, the Interior Ministry said. inspection. . Prime Minister Jean Castex, Thursday, had only mentioned a radius of 10 km.
However, the French authorities avoided using the term “lockdown” to refer to the new measures, in part because of the unpopular nature of the restrictions on mobility.
“We need a permit, but compared to the previous blocks, we are still much more free to leave. So, are we stranded? Yes and no,” Parisian Antonin Le Maréchal, 21, told the Reuters news agency.
The sense of confusion added to doubts over the application of the new rules and spread questions about the effectiveness of the third lockout over a one-year period.
“I hope this will end quickly, although I have doubts about the effectiveness of the measures,” said Kasia Gluc, 57, editor-in-chief on the famous avenue des Champs-Élysées in the French capital.
The French government hopes, on the other hand, that the exodus of Parisians will be less than that recorded in March 2020, during the first lockout, in particular for families with children, since this time the schools will remain open.
“Without the schools, we would go far from Paris,” Viviana, mother of two boys aged 5 and 7, told AFP that she had a “nightmare” when she was confined to her home there. about a year. .