More protests are bound to spread after President Biden announced that vaccinations will become mandatory for millions of U.S. workers in certain categories of employment, including those who work for the federal government and large corporations.
Vaccines used to be a quiet thing: someone getting a flu shot or UNICEF shipping off jabs to children in a faraway country. No longer. COVID-19 has put vaccinations at the center of both global health policy and national partisan politics — and plenty of noise has ensued.
After some initial demonstrations earlier this year critical of slow vaccination rollouts, protests are now firmly focused on local and national policies that require vaccines, including obligatory jabs for medical workers and the so-called "green pass" vaccine-required access to certain locations and activities. No doubt more protests are bound to spread in the United States after last week's announcement by U.S. President Joe Biden that vaccinations will become mandatory for millions of workers in certain categories of employment, including those who work for the federal government and large corporations.
Still, the protests have been nearly as global as the pandemic itself. Throughout much of the summer, France has had a weekly rendezvous on Saturday to protest against vaccine requirements. In Berlin, thousands took to the streets last month chanting, "Hands off our children!" In New York City, a smattering of nurses, doctors and other medical professionals protested compulsory vaccination, chanting "I am not a lab rat!"
Here are some of the typical and atypical ways the anti-required-vax protesters are being seen and heard:
CANADA: Upside down flags + stars of David + hazmat suits
World Wide Walkout Protest, Sept 1, 2021 — Photo: GoToVan
Canada has witnessed steady, and often offbeat or controversial, forms of protest against the vaccine requirements in provinces and cities for those who want to enter restaurants, theaters and workout classes. On Sept.1 a large crowd in the northwest city of Vancouver expressed their displeasure with vaccine requirements by marching on City Hall carrying their nation flag upside down, which according to the Canadian government, is a "signal of distress in instances of extreme danger to life," the Vancouver Sun reports.Meanwhile in Montreal, protesters compared governmental health rules to the Holocaust by wearing yellow Jewish Star of David patches; while in Toronto, Fairwiew Mall regulars would have spotted protesters in hazmat suits and white masks entering the premises. They carried a loudspeaker that blurted out a deep voice uttering eerie slogans: "Questioning masks is murder," "Big business is essential," and "Everyone loves pharmaceutical companies."
FRANCE: ‘Spiderman" scales office tower
Alain Robert and others climbers scaling up a tower in Paris — Photo: Midi Libre
As much of France was returning to work after summer vacation, one of the nation's tallest office skyscrapers was the sight of an unexpected protest against the country's stringent vaccine requirements. Alain Robert, dubbed the "French Spiderman" for his free solo climbing of urban landmarks, led the way up the 187-meter (614 foot) headquarters of energy giant TotalEnergies to protest the health passports currently required to enter bars and restaurants. "It's an attack on fundamental liberties," said the 60-year-old, who was subsequently arrested for endangering the lives of others.
ITALY: Anti-vaxxers arrested
Police car in Rome — Photo: Wikimedia Commons
"If they find out what I have at home, they'll arrest me for terrorism," an Italian man named Stefano boasted on Telegram, the encrypted instant messaging platform. He was one of about 200 Italian anti-vaxxers preparing for a violent demonstration in Rome, where they were talking about using Molotov cocktails against TV trucks and attacking parliament with a drone.
Police not only found what Stefano packed at home — a katana sword, several pepper sprays and a nightstick among other things — but also what the others allegedly hoarded: brass knuckles, guns, as well as smaller weapons, such as razor blades to be hidden between fingers. ("They're not visible, but cut throats open," a Telegram user said.)
Alas, Stefano was right: he and seven other anti-vaxxers were arrested on Sept. 9, La Stampa reported.
POLAND: Anti-vax terrorism attack at vaccine point
An Aug. 2 arson attack on a COVID vaccine point in the Polish city of Zamość, which follows other acts of aggression by opponents of vaccination in Poland, has been condemned by the health minister, Adam Niedzielski, as an "act of terror." During the night, both a mobile vaccination point in the central square of Zamość, a city of 65,000 in southeast Poland, as well as the local headquarters of the health authorities, which are responsible for enforcing coronavirus restrictions, were set alight.Marek Nowak, a sociologist at Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań, told Gazeta Wyborcza that the pandemic has "intensified the formation of radical movements" and led "anti-vaccination movements to use terror to convince others to share their views."
U.S.: Pro-Trump group piggybacks COVID protests
Proud Boys confrontation — Photo: Flickr
A growing number of mask and vaccine mandates in some U.S. states are being met with protests, which have occasionally turned violent. This is in part due to the reappearance of some far-right groups behind the Capitol Hill insurrection in January like the Proud Boys gang, who after lying low for a few months have begun attending rallies, according to USA Today.
Some of the starkest scenes were observed in Los Angeles in August: Proud Boys members and other agitators attacked counter-protesters and journalists, sending a veteran reporter to the hospital. But some non gang-affiliated civilians are also responsible for the violence: in northern California, a parent fuming after seeing his daughter come out of school with a mask barged into the building and assaulted a teacher.
NEW ZEALAND: Down Under, one is the loneliest number
Other nations have seen anti-vaccine protesters gather by the thousands, and the police in Auckland, New Zealand were ready when posts on social media alerted them about a potential gathering. They successfully managed to engage in talks with the protesters and shut down the demonstration — or, rather, the protester, as only one person showed up.
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