by Sayer Ji, Green Med Info:
Since coronavirus pandemic lockdowns were implemented by many governments in 2020, people around the world have held largely peaceful protests against unprecedented social distancing restrictions that are devastating global economies and ruining people’s lives.1 2 3 4 Now, faced with being ordered to obey new laws that require them to be injected with COVID-19 vaccines in order to enter public spaces or hold a job, on July 24, 2021–World Freedom Day–hundreds of thousands of people of all ages took to the streets in Australia, United Kingdom, France, Italy, Greece and Germany to publicly challenge oppressive public health laws.5 6
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The messages on the signs they held were diverse but they were united in pushing back against government overreach. The brave determination of people, in democracies around the world who are publicly defending civil liberties–freedom of thought, speech, conscience and assembly–and the human right to informed consent to medical risk taking, demonstrates that the spirit of freedom lives in the hearts and minds of people everywhere. Both those who gather in the public squares of cities big and small and those who are watching are inspired by this commitment to defending liberty.
In the United States, no large demonstrations have been held yet, but polls reveal the nation is sharply divided about COVID-19 vaccine mandates. A Politico/Harvard poll taken in late June 2021 found that Americans were evenly split on whether children should be required to get the COVID-19 vaccine to go to school and more than half of employed Americans are against COVID-19 vaccine requirements for holding a job, while almost 70 percent of Americans oppose being required to show proof of a COVID-19 vaccination to enter a store or business.7 A recent CS Mott Children’s Hospital poll found that more than half of parents in the U.S. with children between the ages of three and 11 say it is unlikely they will give their children the COVID-19 vaccine.8
Australia: “The lockdown is killing us, not COVID”
With a population of 25 million people, Australians have been subjected to repeated strict lockdowns over the past 18 months and the government’s “stay at home” lockdown in early July 2021 was imposed on New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia, where more than half the country’s population lives. The 30-day rigid social distancing restrictions were enacted after 176 new daily infections were registered in the whole country.9
In response, thousands of Australians gathered in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane on July 24 to protest the lockdown. Social distancing restrictions that have been imposed include compulsory masking in all indoor non-personal residence settings; most schools closed; restrictions on how far people can travel from their homes; no going to work except for designated “essential” employees (who must be tested every three days); exercising and gathering outside only in groups of two; shopping only for essential items; attendance at funerals limited to 10 people but weddings are banned, and other limits on person-to-person social interaction.
In what the U.K. newspaper Daily Mail described as “frenzied crowds” coming together on July 24, there were estimates that as many as 10,000 protesters marched from Victoria Park to Town Hall in the central business district. Carrying signs calling for “freedom” and “the truth” and “I don’t consent” and “Wake up Australia!” and “We are your employers, we are not your slaves” and “unmasked, untested, unvaxxed, unafraid” and “I am not a biohazard” and “Our kids are not your guinea pigs” and “No false tests, no false cases, no lockdowns,” one protester said, “We don’t give a f*** mate, this lockdown is killing us.” Another agreed: “I’m against lockdowns, they’re killing my business.”
Dozens of protesters climbed onto the roofs of a train station and Woolworths store as the crowd gathered around Town Hall singing the Australian national anthem. One observer said on social media, “Protest stretches right down Broadway! Absolutely massive turnout.” The Sydney protest was mostly peaceful but when mounted police told the demonstrators to disperse or they would be pepper sprayed, some broke through a police barrier and threw plastic bottles and plants at officers. The New South Wales Police Minister confirmed 57 people were arrested and charged and a “strike force has been established to investigate who was in attendance.”10
On July 28, the Australian Prime Minister called in military personnel to help enforce social distancing restrictions in Sydney and extended the lockdown for another month after 239 new cases of COVID-19 were detected in the city of five million people within a 24-hour period. Residents will be forced to wear a mask outside their homes and must stay within 3 miles of their homes, only going out for “essential” activities like food shopping.11
On July 30, the Australian government used helicopters and the Army to help police enforce its ‘Zero Covid’ lockdown in Sydney and issue $500 fines for failure to mask.12 The BBC reported that Australian Defense Force soldiers will begin conducting unarmed patrols of the streets this week.13 According to media reports, sirens could be heard throughout the city and helicopters blared messages that ‘this is public health order–do not break rules–you will be found and fined.” Road blocks were set up in a military show of force in response to the public demonstrations earlier in the week, although soldiers are under police command. Starting this week, military personnel will accompany police going door to door to ensure that people who have tested positive for COVID-19 are isolating.14
Reuters reports that the Australian COVID-19 vaccination rate for adults stands at 18 percent and the Prime Minister has said 80 percent of adults must get vaccinated before the border, which has been sealed since the pandemic began, will be re-opened.15
Britain: “No forced testing, no forced vaccines”
In May 2021, a 12 mile procession of tens of thousands of people ended at Parliament Square in a protest against continuing lockdowns and vaccine passports as a condition of accessing public venues.16 On July 19, the British government lifted the COVID-19 lockdown that had been in place for over a year, eliminating masking requirements, work from home, and limits on numbers of people who can gather together, which allowed for the full opening of restaurants and other public venues without social distancing restrictions.17
Just five days after the lockdown restrictions were lifted, thousands of people made their way to Trafalgar Square on July 24 to signal their opposition to potential future lockdowns, as well as to protest against the showing of COVID-19 vaccine passports as a condition of entering public spaces.18 There were banners draped in front of the speaker podium saying, “the public demands live debate” and “Science is not science without discussion” and demonstrators held signs that said “No forced testing, no forced vaccines” and “We are the lions in a world of sheep” and “If you tolerate this, your children will be next.”19
Toward the end of the July 24 demonstration, the huge gathering in Trafalgar Square in unison sang, “You’ll Never Walk Alone:”
When you walk through a storm
Hold your head up high,
And don’t be afraid of the dark.
At the end of a storm is a golden sky
And the sweet silver song of a lark.
Walk on through the wind,
Walk on through the rain,
Though your dreams be tossed and blown.
Walk on, Walk on
With hope in your heart
And you’ll never walk alone,
You’ll never walk alone.
The United Kingdom, which has a population of 57 million, ranks in the top 20 most COVID vaccinated nations, with an adult vaccination rate of over 57 percent.20
France: “My body is mine” and “It is my choice”
Paris, France and the cities of Marseille, Montpelier, Nantes and Toulouse saw tens of thousands of people take to the streets on World Freedom Day to protest against a proposed law that would require all health care workers to get COVID-19 vaccinations or lose their jobs. People will be barred from entering restaurants or other public venues, effectively preventing them from participating in public life unless they have a health pass showing proof of COVID-19 vaccination, recovery from the disease or a recent negative COVID-19 test. A care assistant at a Strasbourg nursing home expressed her disgust with the proposed law, saying it is “the blackmail of caregivers who were at the fronts line during the first wave and who are now threatened with “no more pay” and even being fired.21
A huge crowd of 160,000 people or more, many chanting “freedom, freedom” and carrying signs saying “stop the dictatorship” and “Big Pharma shackles freedom” and “no to the pass of shame” and “vaccines: fake freedom” and “don’t touch our children” were met by police deploying tear gas and a water cannon used against some of them.22 Reuters reported that scuffles broke out at the Champs-Elysees and the Gare Saint-Lazare railway station.23 The demonstrators met at the Bastille plaza and marched through eastern Paris and also gathered at Place Trocadero near the Eiffel Tower to protest the required carrying of a “health pass.”24
Just two days after witnessing several hundred thousand people voicing their opposition to the proposed new public health law, on July 26, the French Parliament voted to pass the law that will take effect this week.25 26
Five days later, on July 31, several hundred thousand French citizens of all ages again flooded into the streets of Paris with signs saying “We are not guinea pigs” and “It is our choice” and “My body is mine” and “Health terror–I will not submit” and “the 4th wave is us” in opposition to the new COVID-19 vaccine and vaccine passport.27 According to media reports, four marches dovetailed into the Place de la Bastille, with health care workers in white coats leading some of them, and were met by waiting squads of gendarmes and CRS riot police with water cannons. Demonstrators also gathered at the Arc de Triomphe at the top of the Champs-Elysees and at the Villiers metro station in northwest Paris.
Reportedly, about 150 other protest events also took place in cities around France, which has a population of about 67 million and an estimated COVID vaccination rate of about 47.5 percent28 or more.
Italy: “Enough Dictatorship: No Green Passes”
Thousands of people gathered in Rome, Genova, Milan, Naples, Turin and scores of other cities in Italy on July 24 to voice their opposition to the government’s imposition of social distancing and COVID-19 vaccine requirements on citizens, including a requirement to carry the “Green Pass,” which is an extension of the European Union’s digital COVID certificate.29 The Green Pass will be required to enter cinemas, museums, indoor swimming pools, sports stadiums or eat indoors at restaurants, proving that a person has been vaccinated, has had a recent negative COVID-19 test or has recovered from the coronavirus infection.30
Chanting and carrying signs that said “Freedom” and “No Green Pass” and “Down with the dictatorship” and “Better to die free than live like slaves” and “against vaccination obligations” and “government does terrorism” and “shame-shame,”31 32 reportedly about 80 cities in Italy saw demonstrations on World Freedom Day. These included an estimated nine thousand people in Milan, who marched in procession to the Piazza Duomo, the Galleria Vittoria Emanuele and to the Piazza Scala in front of the Town Hall. One banner said “Big Pharma out of the state. No to multinationals.”
About five thousand people gathered in Piazza Castello in Turin with signs that said “We want to have the freedom to choose – the freedom to go wherever we want without being tied to a sheet.” In Rome, where there have been anti-lockdown demonstrations over the past year to protest then closure of cafes, bars and restaurants,33 an estimated two thousand demonstrated and the police intervened to disperse the crowd with armored vehicles.34
Italy has a population of about 60 million people, with nearly 52 percent vaccinated for COVID-19.35
Greece: “Hands off our children”
Thousands of people gathered in Omonia Square in the center of Athens on July 24 to express their opposition to the government’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate. They carried signs saying “No mandatory vaccinations” and “No blackmail to dismiss” and “No separation of Greeks” and “hands off our children.” The leader of the anti-COVID vaccine movement in Greece, cardiologist Faidon Vovolis, MD addressed the huge crowd, which, according to Athens News, included “not only anti-vaccination activists, but also food and tourism entrepreneurs, clergy, citizens disaffected by the overall government leadership over the pandemic, and vaccinated citizens who view recent government measures as anti-democractic.”36
Greek police used tear gas and water cannon to disperse the demonstrators, who had rallied outside the Parliament building to protest COVID-19 vaccine requirements for workers, such as health care workers. Reuters said that about 45 percent of Greece’s 11 million population is already vaccinated.37
Germany: “For Peace, Freedom, Truth”
Berlin has been the site of several large demonstrations against lockdowns and COVID vaccine passports over the past year.38 On Aug. 1, 2021, tens of thousands of citizens marched in the streets of Berlin to protest lockdowns that have restricted dining indoors at restaurants or staying in a hotel and requirements to provide proof of COVID vaccination, defying a ban by German lower and upper administrative courts on public demonstrations.39 Berlin’s administrative court had refused to authorize 13 demonstrations, some of which had been organized by the Querdenker (Lateral thinker) anti-lockdown movement.40
Berlin’s police department deployed more than 2,000 officers armed with batons, pepper spray and water cannon as the crowds made their way from Berlin’s Charlottenburg neighborhood, past the Tiergarten park and on to the Brandenberg Gate. Reportedly, police in heavily armed vans dragged protesters across roads and into the vans with marchers shouting for freedom and the lifting of mandatory masking and travel bans. Protesters continued to march in the evening through the city streets and 600 people were arrested.41
Germany has a population of 83 million and 52 percent have been fully vaccinated.42
Human Rights Watch: COVID-19 Triggers Wave of Free Speech Abuse
On Feb. 11, 2021, Human Rights Watch published a report called for an end to excessive restrictions on free speech and peaceful demonstration where people are criticizing COVID-19 lockdowns, mandatory masking and other social distancing regulations that restrict civil liberties. The human rights organization said:43
At least 83 governments worldwide have used the Covid-19 pandemic to justify violating the exercise of free speech and peaceful assembly… Authorities have attacked, detained, prosecuted, and in some cases killed critics, broken up peaceful protests, closed media outlets, and enacted vague laws criminalizing speech that they claim threatens public health. The victims include journalists, activists, healthcare workers, political opposition groups, and others who have criticized government responses to the coronavirus… Governments and other state authorities should immediately end excessive restrictions on free speech in the name of preventing the spread of Covid-19.
Decentralized Government in U.S. Makes A National COVID-19 Vaccine Mandate More Difficult
Unlike centralized governments in Europe and many other parts of the world, the founders of the United States of America ensured in the U.S. Constitution that this country would operate with lawmaking power shared between national, state and local governments.44 The fact that lawmaking power in the U.S. does not solely reside with the federal government, which is composed of the legislative (U.S. Congress), Executive (President/federal agencies) and Judicial (federal courts) branches, so far has protected the U.S. population from being subjected to the same kinds of uniform lockdown restrictions and now, the same kinds of COVID-19 vaccine mandates that are being implemented in European Union countries and other nations with centralized federal governments.
Since most public health laws in the U.S. fall under the legal jurisdiction of states, if a resident does not like the lockdown, masking, social distancing or COVID-19 vaccine mandates in the state they are living in, they simply can move to a different state that does not have the same kind of oppressive public health laws. This is one reason why, although there have been smaller anti-lockdown and anti-COVID-19 vaccine mandate demonstrations in the U.S. over the past 15 months, some of them protesting COVID-19 vaccine requirements for health care workers,45 so far there have not been massive national demonstrations in the U.S. like those taking place in Europe and other parts of the world.
U.S. Government Pushes for an 85 Percent COVID-19 Vaccination Rate
As of July 28, about 60 percent of the U.S. population of 332 million people age 12 and older had received at least one dose of COVID vaccine and reportedly 50 percent, or about 165 million Americans, are “fully” vaccinated.46 As the third largest country in the world, the U.S. has a high COVID-19 vaccination rate compared to other countries, with only 25 countries recording a higher vaccination rate than the U.S.47
According to Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus Resource Center, the country with the largest population in the world at 1.5 billion people–China–has a 16 percent COVID vaccination rate; the country with the second largest population in the world at 1.4 billion people–India–has a 7.4 percent COVID vaccination rate; and Russia, with a population of 146 million people, has a 17 COVID vaccination rate.48