Anti-lockdown protests were seen in several European cities on Saturday in defiance of social distancing restrictions. From gatherings in London’s Hyde Park to Poland to Germany — people were furious about government-enforced lockdowns. Warmer weather trends, such as a heatwave across parts of Europe, could quickly affect mood negatively and lead to more social instabilities.
These protests have been increasing over the last several weeks.
Police in several German cities had their hands full on Saturday as thousands of people lined the streets. Officials in Stuttgart said the permitted number of 5,000 demonstrators was quickly exceeded, and mask-wearing was required, or people risked a 300 euro ($325) fine.
About 1,000 protesters were seen in Munich, around the Theresienwiese event grounds, which is the site of the now-canceled Oktoberfest. We explained last month, the canceling of the event has severely impacted the local economy and could devastate local brewers to hop farmers.
Protesters in both Stuttgart and Munich were angry about lockdown measures enforced via Chancellor Angela Merkel. Other demonstrators were mad about rumors of a vaccine plan by Bill Gates.
An anti-vaccine protester in Stuttgart
German protests were led by several groups, including Resistance 2020 and COMPACT. The first group questions official government data on confirmed cases and deaths, and alleges the government is overinflating the data to seize more control over the population. The second group describes itself as a “sharp sword against imperial propaganda.”
“Why aren’t you telling us the truth, Mrs Merkel? How we are losing our freedom, jobs and health?” says COMPACT.
Folks on social media described the German protesters as “covidiots” who risk triggering a second wave of infections that could lead to extensions or stricter lockdowns. We noted last week that this would undoubtedly continue to crash Germany’s economy.
The economic effects of the countrywide lockdown have been devastating. Several weeks ago, we showed how the labor market had been obliterated.
Germany and other member states have begun to relax some lockdown restrictions, a move to restart the economy. Germany’s professional soccer league resumed games over the weekend without fans — as it appears reverting to pre-corona times will be a challenging and drawn-out process.
And for more color on reopening Europe, a border spat has erupted between Spain and France last week, suggesting a V-shaped recovery of the EU will not be seen this year.
Elsewhere, dozens of people in Poland were arrested for violating social distancing restrictions during protests. Police used tear gas to suppress demonstrators as the city of Warsaw said the gathering was illegal because there was no permit.
Britain saw anti-lockdown and anti-vaccine protesters assemble in Hyde Park in central London and were met with police. Many chanted freedom songs and held signs blasting lockdowns. London Metropolitan Police Service arrested about a dozen people as police dispersed the crowd.
Across the Atlantic in the US, demonstrators held rallies requesting state governments to reopen economies so people can get back to work.
If a second COVID wave triggers additional lockdowns in the Western world — people will likely become more infuriated with government and result in larger social demonstrations.