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Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Coronavirus. Protests against restrictions and covid passports in Greece, France and the Netherlands

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Greek police in Thessaloniki used tear gas and water cannons against thousands of people demonstrating against compulsory vaccination against the coronavirus. According to the authorities, flares were to be thrown at the officers. Similarly motivated protesters demonstrated in several French cities. In the Netherlands, residents took to the streets because of the ban on music festivals.

On Saturday in Greek Thousands of people in Thessaloniki demonstrated against compulsory vaccination against COVID-19. Police used tear gas and water cannons on protesters.

Authorities say policemen who prevented demonstrators from entering the area where Prime Minister Kyriakos Micotakis spoke on economic issues were struck with flares. The annual speech of the Prime Minister usually attracts crowds of demonstrators. According to the police, there were over 15,000 of them this time, including members of trade unions.


Kyriakos Micotakis at the 85th Thessaloniki International Fair in ThessalonikiPAP / EPA / NIKOS ARVANITIDIS

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Vaccine protests against COVID-19 began in July, as the government announced the immunization of medical workers and nursing home staff. Authorities also suggested that compulsory vaccinations could also be introduced for other groups, including teachers.

“Yes to vaccinations, not to their duty,” POEDYN, a federation of public hospital workers, wrote in a statement.

Anti-vaccine activists clashed with police in ThessalonikiPAP / EPA / DIMITRIS TOSIDIS

As of September 1, Greece has suspended some 6,000 frontline healthcare professionals who have missed at least the first dose of the vaccine. A few days later, unvaccinated workers were given a second chance to get the vaccine and return to work.

The POEDYN federation is concerned that a total of 10,000 unvaccinated staff members will be suspended, which they believe will disrupt surgeries in hospitals that are threatened by a lack of staff as the number of COVID-19 infections increases. According to recent figures, around 5.7 million Greeks, or 55 percent of the country’s population, are completely vaccinated against COVID-19, and 59 percent have received one dose.

Anti-vaccine activists clashed with police in ThessalonikiPAP / EPA / DIMITRIS TOSIDIS

Arrests in Paris

On that day, opponents of sanitary restrictions and the covid passport also protested in many cities France. The capital’s prefecture allowed four rallies there, but forbade demonstrations near Wagram Square, from where demonstrators were pushed out using tear gas. Tensions continued from the south, mainly on the right bank of the Seine.

The presence of protesters at Wagram, despite the ban, resulted in the arrest of several people, all of whom, according to a police source cited by Le Figaro, had some type of weapon. Police expected 30,000 people and deployed significant security forces around the Champs Elysees.

In the streets, on the asphalt there are signs: “health is not buzynes”. The inscription refers to the name of the former minister of health, Agnes Buzyn, who was investigated on Friday into putting human lives at risk during the COVID-19 epidemic.

During the march, demonstrators threw firecrackers or smoke candles and whistled at the policemen. Services closed several metro lines. A procession of “yellow vests” joined the demonstrators outside the Council of State building.

It was also disturbing in Toulouse in the south of the country. There, in protest against covid passes, violent clashes took place when an unidentified group attacked the demonstrators with sticks and orthopedic crutches.

Clashes in French ToulouseReuters

“Yes” to Formula 1, “no” to festivals. The Dutch are protesting

North, in The Netherlands, in nine cities, tens of thousands of people took to the streets to protest the ban on festivals due to the COVID-19 epidemic. From August 14, only one-day events with a maximum of 750 participants may be held. This – according to the participants of the protests – is not enough.

The organizers claim that 150,000 people took part in the demonstrations that took place in Amsterdam, Utrecht and Maastricht, among others. According to the information obtained by the NOS portal in the communes where the protests took place, there were from 50,000 to 70,000 participants.

A few weeks ago, a similar protest gathered almost 100,000 people. Just like then, their participants demand from the government to restore festivals and other events, the organization of which has been banned due to epidemic restrictions.

Protesters are also outraged that the country may host football matches with full stands, and consent was given to the organization of the Formula 1 Grand Prix in Zandvoort, which attracted 70,000 spectators.

According to Dutch media reports, the government is to announce a relaxation of the rules for organizing festivals next week.

Main photo source: PAP / EPA / DIMITRIS TOSIDIS

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