Immunity passport protests spread across European capitals

AP Photo/Rafael Yaghobzadeh

More countries in Europe are continuing to roll out mandatory vaccine mandates and the use of immunity passports this month. And that’s led to increasingly vocal protests against these policies in a number of European capitals. Last night, the Associated Press was reporting on protests in multiple cities including Athens, Helsinki, London, Paris, and Stockholm. Some were smaller in size, with a couple of hundred people gathering, but others drew crowds in the thousands. The protest in Sweden was among the largest, drawing an estimated 3,000 people who shut down traffic and urged people not to comply with these orders. The new restrictions in France are viewed as being particularly severe.

Thousands of people gathered in European capitals Saturday to protest vaccine passports and other requirements governments have imposed in hopes of ending the coronavirus pandemic.

Demonstrations took place in Athens, Helsinki, London, Paris and Stockholm.

Marches in Paris drew hundreds of demonstrators protesting the introduction from Monday of a new COVID-19 pass. It will severely restrict the lives of those who refuse to get vaccinated by banning them from domestic flights, sports events, bars, cinemas and other leisure venues. French media reported that demonstrators also marched by the hundreds in other cities.

The big protest in Stockholm was organized by Frihetsrorelsen, which translates to “Freedom Movement.” While the protesters there remained nonviolent (aside from blocking traffic, which you really shouldn’t do without a permit), they ran into a phenomenon that will sound familiar to those who have been observing a different style of protests in America. The event was infiltrated by the neo-Nazi group called the Nordic Resistance Movement. But the police still reported no incidents of violence.

The protesters in France had plenty to complain about because the new French restrictions are particularly onerous. The unvaccinated are now barred from taking both international and domestic flights, even if they have a negative COVID test and are wearing a mask. They are also restricted from taking most public transport systems except for local trips for shopping and critical needs, so if they don’t have their own car, they’re pretty much stuck. Further, the unvaccinated in France are barred from bars, restaurants, sporting events, movie theaters, and other “leisure venues.” (I suppose a massive protest in the middle of Paris doesn’t qualify as a leisure venue.)

These heavy-handed restrictions are in keeping with some of the coarse language recently used by French President Macron, who said that he wanted to “piss off” the millions of unvaccinated French citizens who are still refusing to comply. Judging by the crowds in the streets of Paris, I’d say he has accomplished his mission because they look pretty pissed off to me.

But is that a smart move politically when Macron is up for reelection next year? At least according to The Atlantic, it is. Their take is that the vaccinated outnumber the unvaccinated in the United States and politicians doing things to anger or suppress them will wind up scoring points with the “impatient” vaccinated majority.

Perhaps that’s true if people show up and vote as a single-issue mob. After all, the unvaccinated make up barely a quarter of the French population. But people have other concerns and it seems unlikely that they will simply forget all of those policies. And if the unvaccinated turn out to be largely some of the same people who voted for Macron last time, that could turn into a significant issue for him. There’s also a question as to how wise it is to “piss off” one-quarter of your population. If you push them too far, that’s more than enough people to constitute a dangerous uprising if they get shoved around too much.