AUSTRIA: Police officers arrest a protester during a demonstration against new Covid-19 restrictions, including a lockdown from Monday and mandatory vaccines from February 1
Violence today broke out in Vienna as 10,000 protesters took to the streets to demonstrate against a new Covid-19 lockdown and mandatory vaccinations.
It comes after two people were shot and six others injured in Rotterdam last night after activists clashed with Dutch riot police in a demonstration condemned as an ‘orgy of violence’.
Demonstrations against virus measures are also expected in other European countries including Switzerland, Croatia and Italy – the latest in rising anger at the re-introduction of restrictions amid soaring cases on the continent.
This comes as the World Health Organization (WHO) said it was ‘very worried’ about the spread of Covid-19 within Europe as the continent battles a fresh wave of infections.
Regional director Dr Hans Kluge told the BBC that some 500,000 more deaths could be recorded by March unless urgent action is taken.
As the march kicked off on Vienna’s Heldenplatz, thousands of protesters gathered on the massive square. About 1,300 police officers were on duty. They used loudspeakers to tell protesters masks were required, but most did not wear them.
Chanting ‘resistance!’ and blowing whistles, protesters began to move slowly down the city’s inner ring road. Many waved Austrian flags and carried signs mocking government leaders like Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg and Health Minister Wolfgang Mueckstein.
Some wore doctor’s scrubs; others donned tinfoil hats. Most of the signs focused on the newly announced vaccine mandate: ‘My Body, My Choice,’ read one. ‘We’re Standing Up for Our Kids!’ said another.
By mid-afternoon the crowds had swelled to roughly 35,000 people, according to the police, and were marching down Vienna’s inner ring road before heading back towards the Hofburg.
Police were pictured arresting two protesters. A spokesman said there had been fewer than 10 arrests, for breaches of coronavirus restrictions and the ban on Nazi symbols.
Meanwhile, a few hundred protesters gathered in Amsterdam today and a similar number marched through the southern city of Breda over the latest Covid-19 measures.
It comes after violent riots last night in which 51 were arrested in Rotterdam after thousands of anti-lockdown protesters gathered on one of the city’s main shopping streets.
Dutch police fired water canons, ‘warning shots’ and bullets at protesters to disperse the crowd who had lit fires and set off fireworks. Police confirmed seven injuries, including officers, in the violence but did not say if live ammunition or rubber bullets were fired.
The Netherlands re-imposed some lockdown measures last weekend for an initial three weeks in an effort to slow a resurgence of coronavirus contagion, but daily infections have remained at their highest levels since the start of the pandemic.
The Dutch government has said it wants to introduce a law that would allow businesses to restrict the country’s coronavirus pass system to only people who are fully vaccinated or have recovered from Covid-19 — that would exclude people who test negative.
The violent scenes in Rotterdam mirrored much of the continent’s reaction to similar schemes announced by Austria, Germany, the Czech Republic, and Slovakia – with Italy and Greece also reportedly considering moves to restrict the movements of unvaccinated people.