Hundreds of fines have been issued and dozens of Sydney after anti-blockade protesters marched and clashed with police in what a deputy commissioner called “violent, dirty and risky behavior.”
New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian said she was “completely disgusted” by the thousands who had violated the region’s coronavirus measures to protest, saying on Sunday the scenes “broke my heart.”
Detectives are now combining social media and CCTV footage and body cameras used by police to identify and punish all who defied stay-at-home orders, now entering their fifth week. Police issued 510 tickets on Saturday, with the “vast majority” coming from Saturday’s protest. Two have been charged with allegedly beating a police horse.
State Police Minister David Elliott harshly criticized Saturday’s riots, saying: “Sydney is not immune from jerks.”
Victorian officials criticized similar protests in the state capital, Melbourne. State Covid-19 testing commander Jeroen Weimar described those who took stress as a “small minority having a self-indulgent tantrum,” and Victorian Prime Minister Daniel Andrews warned that “you cannot be vaccinated against selfishness.”
The Sydney region is struggling to contain an outbreak of the Delta variant that began in Bondi last month, amid a slow rollout of vaccination and a persistent violation of stay-at-home orders among family groups. An analysis by Guardian Australia found that it could take months to go backwards.
About half of Australia’s 25 million people are locked up in various cities and states, and anger at the federal government is mounting over a vaccine program that has fully inoculated less than 13% of the population since it began in February. .
New South Wales reported an additional 141 cases on Sunday and two deaths, including a woman in her 30s who had no pre-existing conditions. “If anyone thinks this is a disease that only affects older people, think again,” Berejiklian said.
The ugly scenes in Sydney and Melbourne, as well as Adelaide and Brisbane, were also mirrored across Europe as people criticized Covid-19 measures and government restrictions aimed at improving vaccine acceptance.
In France, the police deployed tear gas and water cannons against some protesters, after an estimated 160,000 took to the streets in nationwide protests against President Emmanuel Macron’s health pass that will drastically reduce access to restaurants and public spaces for unvaccinated people.
The protesters chanted “freedom, freedom” and carried banners denouncing “Macron, tyrant”, “Big pharmaceuticals chain freedom” or saying “No to the step of shame”.
Similar protests, which drew just over 110,000 people at 130 sites, took place across the country last weekend.
Legislation lawmakers are considering will make vaccines mandatory for certain professions, while the controversial health pass will severely restrict the social lives of those who resist starting in late July.
There were signs that the stricter measures, announced on July 13, were having the desired effect: 48% of the population was fully vaccinated as of Friday, eight percentage points more than on July 10.
While more than three-quarters of the French backed Macron’s measures, according to an Elabe poll for BFMTV on July 13, a sizable and vocal minority do not. Macron, in the run-up to next year’s presidential elections, must appease the country’s deep-rooted anti-vax contingent. Recently, two vaccination centers have been physically attacked.
In Italy, Protesters gathered in Rome to demonstrate against a mandatory “green pass” for meals and indoor entertainment.
Meanwhile, around 5,000 people demonstrated in Athens, Greece, carrying banners with slogans such as “Don’t touch our children,” according to an Agence France-Presse journalist at the scene.