A fresh wave of protests against recent COVID-19 regulations has been gaining momentum in various countries across Europe. While such protests were earlier initiated by corona-sceptics, anti-vaccine campaign groups and sections of the far-right, they are now also joined by libertarian groups and several other sections impoverished by the socio-economic crisis inflicted by the pandemic. On Saturday, August 7, major mobilizations took place in several European cities including Berlin, Rome, Paris, Marseille and Lyon, among others, to protest the new regulations imposed by the respective governments restricting the mobility of people during the pandemic. Countries like Italy and France have made health passes mandatory for travel and entering public spaces like malls, parks, restaurants, gyms, bars, and others.
According to reports, Italian authorities have issued digital green passes to vaccinated people, thereby categorically restricting the entry of unvaccinated people to museums, bars and restaurants, public swimming pools and gyms. The new regulations also permit people who have recovered from COVID-19 in the last six months or who can provide a negative test to enter such places. In France, president Emmanuel Macron has made it mandatory to have a full course of vaccination or a COVID-19 negative certificate or be recently recovered from COVID-19 to access public spaces and utilities.
Ruptly reported that over 1,000 people demonstrated at the Piazza del Popolo in Rome on Saturday against the imposition of the digital green passes. In France, the Yellow Vests joined the protest mobilization in Paris against the mandatory health passes. The police reportedly used force to disperse a protest mobilization in Lyon on Saturday. In Germany, hundreds joined a silent march in Berlin to mourn the death of a prominent member of the COVID-sceptic political party ‘Die Basis’ during a protest last week.
Protests and propaganda against COVID-19 restrictions, lockdowns and vaccination have been witnessed since the beginning of the outbreak of the pandemic and the first round of lockdowns in 2020. Then, the protests were mainly led by far-right groups, such as those witnessed in the weekly hygiene demos in Germany which targeted minorities and immigrants. They were organized by far-right groups to fortify their support base by channelizing the anger and dissatisfaction of the people in distress against the center-right, liberal, and social-democratic regimes in various European countries.
Such attempts by the far-right have been vigorously countered by progressive sections, including the left, anti-fascists and the working class. However, the continous pro-rich and anti-worker policies, despite a pandemic, by neoliberal regimes across Europe have pushed the working class to the brink.
Movements had been protesting the transfer of the burden of the crisis to their shoulders, but generally endorsed the COVID-19 regulations placed by governments and formed the frontline of resistance to the far-right maneuvers to capitalize on the COVID-19 crisis. Now, exhausted by the prolonged crisis and the insensitive policies of the neoliberal governments, sections of the working class and youth have also started participating in protests against the new COVID-19 regulations.
In the Bouches-du-Rhone department in France, under the leadership of Jeunes Communistes-13, youth and workers have been participating in recurring protests in Marseille against health passes and onslaughts on the working class in the name of the pandemic. Jeunes Communistes-13 stated that the ongoing protests in Marseilles “are not ‘anti-vax’ and ‘fascist’ demonstrations, but first a popular movement against the government’s continuing authoritarian rise, against the destruction of our living conditions under the alibi of the pandemic.”
“We cannot leave our class to the hands of fascists who divert genuine popular anger towards the worsening dictatorship of the most reactionary financial monopolies. This is why we will participate in the demonstrations against the health pass and the attacks on workers rights,” Jeunes Communistes-13 added.