Stunning scenes from major cities across Europe are circulating on social media networks following a tense weekend which saw tens of thousands—if not hundreds of thousands—rally to oppose COVID-19 vaccine passports, vaccine mandates, and draconian lockdown measures.
From Stockholm to Paris to Barcelona to Helsinki, EU governments braced themselves as citizens—singing anthems, waving national flags, and shouting slogans—gathered in the main squares and marched along the major thoroughfares to express their dissatisfaction with the current order, France’s pan-European news network Euronews reports.
The demonstrations, organized by the pan-European pro-democracy group Europeans United, took place in major cities in Belgium, France, Germany, Spain, Sweden, Finland, Norway, and the UK. They’re are the largest to shake the continent since the pandemic began nearly two years ago.
Brussels, the de facto capital of the European Union, saw one of the largest demonstrations to take place on European soil thus far in the pandemic, with at least 50,000 people—according to authorities—taking part in the protest. Other sources suggest that well over 100,000 demonstrators attend the protests.
Protesters marched through the streets of the Belgian capital before gathering in Cinquanternaire Park in the European quarter—an area of the city where some of the European Union’s key institutions are situated.
Participants were seen carrying signs criticizing Prime Minister Alexander De Croo and the so-called ‘green pass,’ which is required to access most public places.
At some point during the demonstration, clashes between the police and protesters erupted near the European Union headquarters. Authorities deployed water cannons and tear gas as a small contingent of violent protesters, most of whom were in Black Bloc attire, hurled objects and shot fireworks.
The masked protesters also smashed a window at the entrance to the EU Foreign Affairs headquarters.
On Monday, Annelies Verlinden (CD&V), Belgium’s interior minister, announced that police arrested a total of 231 people—all of whom had diverse profiles. She called the violence “completely unacceptable.”
Some 10,000 protestors marched through the Swedish capital, Stockholm, and gathered in the main square on Saturday to oppose a law that requires citizens to present a vaccine passport to gain entry into indoor events with over 50 people.
A separate demonstration in Gothenburg, Sweden’s second-largest city, saw between 1,000 and 2,000 demonstrators march through the city’s main streets.
Across the country, 168 demonstrations—all of which were organized to oppose the vaccine pass which is set to come into effect next week—took place on Saturday and together saw some 38,000 people mobilized, according to official figures from the French interior ministry.
In Paris, roughly 5,200 protestors participated in three separate processions.
Demonstrations against vaccine passports and harsh lockdown measures have been a weekly fixture in France for months now.
This weekend, just several days after some 70,000 people gathered across the country to protest against the leftist government’s COVID-19, tens of thousands of demonstrators participated in marches across the country. According to a report from Die Welt, they’re the largest protests the country’s ever seen.
More than 7,500 protestors marched through the city center of Düsseldorf, alone, while more than 15,000 gathered in the cities Hamburg, Frankfurt, and Freiburg, according to official government figures, the state media outlet Deutsche Welle reports.
Smaller demonstrations, which saw roughly 1,000 participants respectively, took place in Stuttgart, Chemnitz, Leipzig, Dresden, Offenbach Schwerin.
Demonstrators were heard shouting: “We are the people,” and chanting slogans that lambasted the mainstream-liberal press’s coverage of the pandemic.
According to a report from Die Welt, the German government is seriously “concerned” over the sheer number of demonstrations against COVID restrictions which have taken place across the country in recent weeks.”
On Saturday, thousands of protestors—along with workers from the UK’s National Health Service—demonstrated against mandatory vaccine requirements which, after coming into effect next month, will see those who refuse the jab lose their jobs. While some healthcare workers were seen tossing their scrubs at officers outside of Downing Street, others laid down their work uniforms in Trafalgar Square.
Similar demonstrations against vaccine mandates took place in Manchester, Birmingham, Leeds, and Newcastle.
Last week, some 1,000 protestors, some of whom waved banners saying “It’s not a pandemic, it’s a dictatorship,” marched through the streets of Barcelona to express their displeasure with the government’s COVID-19 restriction and to oppose vaccine passports.
On Saturday afternoon, roughly 4,000 people gathered at Senate Square in central Helsinki to protest against COVID-19 restrictions enacted by the country’s left-wing government, Finland’s state broadcaster Yle reports. Demonstrators voiced their opposition to vaccine passports and mandates and called on the government to put an end to the emergency powers put in place at the beginning of the pandemic. A smaller demonstration also took place in the city of Jyväskylä.
Hundreds of Norwegians also opposed to vaccine passports took part in a torchlit procession through the streets of Oslo on Saturday evening.
Demonstrators were heard chanting: “Yes to freedom, no to passports.”