Protests over responses to the COVID-19 pandemic
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There have been protests and demonstrations around the world against responses to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic by governmental bodies. Some forms of protests have been compared to the Anti-Mask League of San Francisco movement that was seen during the 1918 pandemic. Various strikes have also occurred.
The Kenyan government has been accused of extreme measures, with protesters accusing the Kenyan Police of killing at least six people within the first 10 days of the lockdown. Others protested against the forced quarantine of individuals failing to comply with regulations or returning home from abroad, claiming that they had been quarantined for longer than 14 days and made to pay the government for their care. Hundreds protested on 8 May 2020 when the government destroyed 7,000 homes and a market in Kariobangi in an effort to control the virus.
A Malawi high court temporary barred the government from implementing a 21-day lockdown after it was challenged by the Human Rights Defenders Coalition, after it was argued that more consultation was needed to prevent harm to the poorest and most vulnerable. Small protests had been staged prior to the ruling, in at least three major cities with some protestors stating it was better to contract the virus than die of hunger due to lack of work.
A group of at least twenty coronavirus patients forced their way out of an isolation facility to protests against alleged improper care and the government's actions which they believed to worsen their conditions. Workers at a construction site rioted against lockdown measures that limited their ability to work on constructing an oil refinery for billionaire Aliko Dangote.
Many residents protested against the policy that food parcel aid would only be going to households that earn below R3600, and demanded action from the South African Social Security Agency. Surfers have also protested to be allowed to surf during the lockdown, that allows exercise but not water activities.
Three young, female opposition activists were reported missing following a protest in Harare, Zimbabwe, over COVID-19 lockdown measures on 15 May 2020. They were later treated at a hospital after asserting they had been abducted and sexually abused by suspected state security agents.
Small shop owners protested the continuation of rent charges outside of the Grand Ocean Department Store in Wuhan, chanting "Exempt rental for a year, or refund the lease". Videos from the demonstration were posted in the social media platform Sina Weibo but quickly censored. A woman was arrested and facing criminal charges after attempting to rally about 100 people to protest the poor management and overpriced provisions during the lockdown. She has been charged with "picking quarrels and provoking trouble" an offense normally used to detain dissidents and social activists.
Pro-democratic movement's tactics were repurposed to pressure the government to take stronger actions to safeguard Hong Kong's public health in the face of the coronavirus outbreak in Hong Kong. Protesters demanded all travellers coming from China be banned from entering Hong Kong. From 3 to 7 February 2020, hospital staff launched a labour strike with the same goal. The strike was not successful as Carrie Lam rejected a full border closure and still left three of the 14 crossing points with China open.
People responded negatively to the government's attempt to set up quarantine and clinical centres in neighbourhoods close to residents and marched to express their discontent or blocked roads to thwart the government's plans across the territory.
After the televised announcement by Prime Minister Narendra Modi that the lockdown was to be extended until at least 3 May, police used batons to disperse protesting migrant workers in Mumbai. Thousands of jobless migrant workers had gathered at railway stations and were demanding to be allowed to break the lockdown to return home. Similar protests were seen in other parts of the country by the workers, and those who claimed that they received no aid which was promised by the government to provide them with during the lockdown period.
On 5 October, 2020, Indonesia has passed a law on job creation that will weaken environmental protections and workers’ rights in an attempt to boost the economy hit hard by the Wuhan pneumonia pandemic. On 6 October, thousands of Indonesians protest in industrial areas around Jakarta including Tangerang and Karawang and on Batam. A three-day national strike was started which unions expected to involve two million workers in protest against the law.
Thousands of Israelis engaged in social distancing while gathering to protest against the believed anti-democratic measures in the country by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Many were involved in the Black Flag movement which had been allowed to protest by police if they stood six feet apart and all wore masks. An earlier protest had seen the protesters drive to Jerusalem to protest anti-democratic measures. Other demonstrations have been seen in the ultra-Orthodox Jerusalem neighborhood of Mea Shearim with men and youths throwing rocks at police before being arrested.
Many protesters argued for monetary relief from the countries slumping economy after weeks of the lockdown. At least one demonstrator died after soldiers used tear gas, batons, and live bullets to disperse a protesters in Tripoli who were throwing molotov cocktails. Protesters also congregated in Beirut outside the central bank and threw rocks at the building, and took over major roads as they claimed there wasn't enough done to protect the economy and those that would suffer the most economically.
Dozens of doctors were arrested in Quetta after protesting the lack of safety equipment that they had been given to battle the spread of the disease. Hundreds of laborers protested against their forced layoffs due to the pandemic by gathering outside their old places of work throughout the city of Karachi.
Parents of students who had been studying abroad in the Chinese province of Hubei protested against the government's decision to leave the children in the area in February 2020.
Spontaneous demonstrations were held on 1 April 2020, by a Quezon City urban poor community to protest lack of food and other assistance during the metropolitan-wide COVID-19 lockdown. Police violently dispersed protesters and arrested 21 people. The city mayor and a Congress representative appealed to police to release those arrested.
Jeepney drivers rendered jobless by the COVID-19 emergency protested in Caloocan on 3 June 2020. Six protesters were arrested and jailed for a few days to one week.
Several groups held protests nationwide to coincide with the commemoration of Philippine Independence on 12 June 2020. Among these was the "Grand Mañanita" protest at the University of the Philippines in Quezon City. The Grand Mañanita protested the government's response to the COVID-19 crisis and Congress' passage of a controversial anti-terror bill.
On 18 July, Thailand saw the largest street demonstration since the 2014 Thai coup d'état at the Democracy Monument in Bangkok with around 2,500 protesters. The protesters, organised under the name Free Youth (Thai: เยวชนปลดแอก; RTGS: yaowachon plod aek), announced three demands: dissolution of the House, stop threatening the people and drafting of a new constitution. The event was triggered by the failed economy due to pandemic, and unjustified implementation of the COVID-19 acts that were heavily criticised as being a tool against any possible protest. The situation erupted after two COVID-19 cases; an Egyptian soldier in Rayong Province, and a Sudanese diplomat's daughter in Asok neighbourhood of Bangkok, were tested positive earlier on 15 July. Both were excepted from COVID-19's travel restrictions and containment. Many criticised on both the government's failure to contain the disease from these VIPs, and its failure to boost the heavily affected tourism industry in Rayong Province. The protesters demanded the government to accept within two weeks, or face larger demonstrations.
On 30 March 2020 The Bulgarian Health Ministry issued an order that made not wearing a face mask in public punishable by law at a time when no masks were available for purchasing in the country. After strong public unrest, the order was recalled on the following day and re-instated yet again later, with some modifications. A small protest took place on 19 April 2020 in Sofia against the measures to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, with many of the participants expressing concerns about their livelihoods. Protests with an anti-vax slant that also demanded the resignation of the government, organized by the Vazrazhdane party, were held in May and June, resulting in a few arrests, but did not see a significant turnout.
Public disapproval grew during the pandemic and reached a spontaneous culmination on 9 July 2020 after a police raid on the Presidency of Bulgaria in what was perceived as an attack against President Rumen Radev, a vocal critic of prime minister Boyko Borisov, who has been in power since 2009, and the long-standing grievances against endemic corruption and state capture. Daily demonstrations have been held in the country's capital Sofia ever since.
The Paris suburb Villeneuve-la-Garenne has seen riots since 18 April, partly about the strains of the covid outbreak and lockdown on working-class families, often immigrants, who live in small apartments in crowded public housing buildings. Many have reported that in poorer neighbourhoods the policies are difficult to follow due to over crowding and cause the neighbourhoods to be impacted more than wealthier Parisians. The demonstrations have since been seen in the suburb Hauts-de-Seine, and other French cities Toulouse, Lyon and Strasbourg.
Since April 2020, in Germany at least seven protests against government policies over the COVID-19 pandemic have been held. The largest German corona protest until now was in Berlin on 29 August, which drew 38,000 participants.
Several of the protests in Germany, like the one of 29 August, were organized by the group Querdenken 711, based in Stuttgart. They consider the German corona restrictions to be disproportionate, but most of all they censure the violation of nine articles of the German Constitution by the German corona measures.
On the 29 August demonstration in Berlin, one of the invited orators was Robert F. Kennedy Jr., lawyer and activist and nephew of the assassinated US President John F. Kennedy. He warned the crowd, that the corona measures, deployed now in many countries, might turn out to be a stepping stone towards a surveillance state and global totalitarianism, and predicted that the Berlin corona protests would be discredited by news media as a "nazi" eruption.
Hundreds attended an anti-lockdown, anti-face mask protest in Dublin on 22 August. The protest was organised by Health Freedom Ireland with support from Yellow Vest Ireland. Four people were arrested at the protest. Another protest was organised by the same groups on 3 October, with up to a thousand protestors marching through the city centre before staging a sit-down protest in the main shopping area of Grafton Street.
Catholic clergy in Italy took to posting video messages in response to the lockdown policies and the re-opening policies that have been slowly introduced in Italy as the pandemic infection rates have decreased. Giovanni D'Ercole, bishop of Ascoli Piceno in the Marche region, claimed in a video that the inability for religious institutions to hold services outside of funerals was like a dictatorship.
On 23 October 2020, hundreds of people protested in Naples, after stricter COVID-19 measures were imposed in the city and the whole region of Campania. The protestors clashed with police, wounding seven officers with smoke bombs, burning trash bins and chanting against the President of the region, Vincenzo De Luca. Two people were arrested.
Hundreds of protesters gathered in the Polish border town of Zgorzelec to protest the lockdown regulations, the protest was staged specifically on the foot bridge connecting Zgorzelec and the German town of Gorlitz as many lived in Poland but worked in Germany. Many protested the inability to cross the borders of the countries as they lived in a different country from where they worked, and similar protests were seen in border towns along the Polish-German border and the Polish-Czech border.
Security forces broke up a crowd of about 2,000 individuals protesting against the lockdown in Vladikavkaz, with some detained and the believed organizer arrested prior to the event. Some protesters at the event used their social media to post videos about their demands against the lockdown, with one stating; "Today, under the pretext of the coronavirus, which doesn't exist, people are driven into slavery, they are trying to establish total control over all us all."
Thousands of people, mostly supporters of the far-right party Vox, attended protests in Madrid and the country's regional capitals over the lockdown and its impact on the Spanish economy. The protesters drove in convoys to adhere to social distancing, with the Madrid protest led by a bus containing Vox leader Santiago Abascal. Abascal called for the national government of Pedro Sánchez to resign over its handling of the virus.
On 20 September 2020, thousands of people went out in protest throughout the Community of Madrid demanding the resignation of the regional government of Isabel Díaz Ayuso, after the latter had announced two days earlier a partial lockdown affecting 850,000 people living in the region's poorest areas which was dubbed as "segregationist" and fostering "stigmatisation, exclusion and territorial discrimination". The protests came amid growing criticism of Ayuso's handling of the virus as "ineffective" and of her coalition government having "floundered" in its attempt to antagonize with Sánchez's government, as the region became the most heavily hit area in all of Europe in the second wave of the pandemic with many neighborhoods being near or above 1,000 cases per 100,000 people.
In late April 2020, two anti-lockdown protesters had a stand-off with police on the roof of Shrewsbury College; they were then arrested. On both 25 April and 1 May, Piers Corbyn—the brother of former Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn—was present at anti-lockdown protests in Glastonbury. On 25 April, Corbyn said to the 30 to 100 other protesters: "We know there's no pandemic … We all know the lockdown has failed us. It has caused misery … We'll have more deaths from loneliness, suicide and people being kept out of hospital".
A group of around 20 people, which included some young children, held a peaceful protest and defied social-distancing rules outside New Scotland Yard on 2 May. Another protest was held by a group of between 40 and 50 people on Lambeth Walk, near Westminster Bridge, on 9 May. A number of people were arrested and fixed penalty notices were issued by the police.
Protests against the UK's COVID-19 lockdown, to be held across the country in the weekend of 16 May, in cities such as Manchester, Bristol, Leicester and Southampton, were advertised online, produced by the UK Freedom Movement, an online group. On 15 May, former leader of the far-right group Britain First Jayda Fransen was associated with that apparent anti-lockdown movement circulating online due to her registration as director of Freedom Movement Ltd with Companies House, but Fransen has denied any involvement. On Saturday, 16 May, 50 anti-lockdown and anti-vax protesters defied social-distancing rules at Speakers' Corner in Hyde Park, including Piers Corbyn. There were further smaller protests on the same day in Manchester, Cardiff, Glasgow, Belfast and other cities across the country.
A small anti-lockdown protest took place along Hove seafront on 18 May. A protest the next day was held at Hampstead Heath, who demanded the reopening of its ponds as council had refused to reopen them. This was followed by another protest on 23 May that was held on Clapham Common, with around 20 protesters calling for the lockdown to come to end and for children to only return to school if there is "no social distancing". Another protest was held at Hyde Park on 30 May.
Thousands gathered in London's Trafalgar Square on 29 August as a part of the Unite for Freedom movement to protest against lockdown restrictions and the possibility of a mandatory vaccine. Prominent speakers included the conspiracy theorists Kate Shemirani, Piers Corbyn and David Icke. A flyer for the event focused on the extension of what Unite for Freedom deem a "draconian extension of controls" over the population.
On 12 September, a group of anti-lockdown protesters gathered in Birmingham following the announcement the previous day that Birmingham, and the nearby boroughs of Solihull and Sandwell would be subject to increased restrictions due to a rise in cases in the area.
On 19 September, a protest was held by the group Resist and Act for Freedom at Trafalgar Square, London. Prominent speakers were Shemirani, Corbyn and Mark Steele. Shemirani during her speech said that COVID-19 was a “hoax” and “does not exist”, that a vaccine for COVID-19 would mean that the government would ”be able to look at every aspect of what’s going on in our brains“ and “not only can they pick it up, they can download into us“.
On 26 September, a protest was held at Trafalgar Square, London. Prominent speakers were Corbyn, Icke, Gareth Icke (David Icke's son) and others. One speaker, Daz Nez (real name Darren Nesbit), who once appeared in 2018 on This Morning and espoused the Flat Earth conspiracy theory, sang a song with themes about the New World Order, anti-vaccines, anti-cooperation, anti-government, anti-monarchy and anti-lockdown. The protest resulted in three protesters and nine police officers being injured. Sixteen people were arrested.
On 17 October, a protest was held through Hyde Park and Oxford Street in London. The protest was in response to London being put under tighter restrictions that have been imposed on the city. Protesters held placards with conspiracy theories linking COVID-19 to 5G, "curfews equal Nazification", "question the government narrative, rise up now", "freedom of speech is our right, COVID-19 is a hoax", "lockdown kills", "COVID-19 equals control" and describing COVID-19 as a "hoax". Piers Corbyn spoke at Leicester Square and told the crowd:
Bill Gates wants vaccinations to control you and to control women’s fertility to reduce world population. That is his game and he’s going to get loads of money off it, and you will pay with your money and your life. We say, ‘No’.
On 18 October, Corbyn attended an anti-lock protest in Clayton Square, Liverpool City Centre. He told the protesters:
This COVID-19 virus is a hoax. There may have been something around in China, was it the same thing, was it a bio-weapon, who knows. But it was used to unleash the most monstrous power-grab the world has ever seen. And what we have got to do, we have got to break their lockdowns, break all their measures or we lose. We are not just walking around protesting, saying to the Government please do this, please do that. We are not protesting, we are fighting, in order to break every move they make.
On 24 October, an anti-lockdown protest was held by Save Our Rights UK using the slogan “Stop The New Normal” in London. After marching from Hyde Park to Westminster, the protest ended in Trafalgar Square. Key speakers were Louise Creffield and Piers Corbyn. Shortly before 4pm, the police decided to break up the protest because the protesters “failed to comply with the terms of their risk assessment, government guidelines and were not maintaining social distancing”. The police officer in charge “determined their protest is no longer exempt from the regulations and is an illegal gathering.” The police first asked protesters to leave the area and only used enforcement as a last resort; at least 18 people were arrested during the protest.
On 21 April it was reported that prisoners at the Saskatchewan Penitentiary had been protesting against restrictions placed upon them in response to COVID-19, like being kept in their cells for 20 hours a day.
On 29 April, police in Yajalón, Chiapas, southern Mexico, opened fire on people who were protesting against a checkpoint that left their community isolated. Residents of neighbouring Tumbalá complained that the checkpoint made it impossible for them to access governmental and banking services and that it seemed to be related to a belief that Tumbalá had a high rate of coronavirus infection. Checkpoints have been installed in about 20% of Mexico's municipalities, which the federal government has declared illegal.
Hundreds of Mexicans participated in caravans on 30 May demanding the resignation of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador because of his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic in Mexico and the economy. The caravans, which took place in about a dozen cities across the country, consisted largely of luxury cars.
Violence broke out on 4 June during demonstrations in Guadalajara, Jalisco to demand justice after the death of Giovanni López in the town of Ixtlahuacán de los Membrillos. López, a 30-year-old mason, had been arrested on 4 May for not wearing a facemask during a lockdown and died the next day while in police custody.
United States national response began in early January, originating with actions by the CDC and the White House. The first US case of COVID-19 was recorded on 19 January 2020. In the United States the response was determined by state and local officials in coordination with the CDC and federal officials. On 9 February, Governors were briefed by the White House Coronavirus Task Force. Beginning in mid-March various social distancing measures to limit spread of the virus were undertaken by state governors and in some cases counties or cities. Actions taken included Stay-at-home orders ("quarantine"), school and business closures, and limitation on the size of gatherings. On 19 March 2020, President Donald Trump, and Vice President Mike Pence met (via teleconference) with governors of most states to continue coordination and to assist states with their responses. FEMA was brought into the effort around this time. By 7 April, 42 states had lockdown orders orders in place. The shutdowns had serious economic effects, including a steep rise in unemployment due to the shutdown of stores and workplaces. By 15 April protests and demonstrations had broken out in some states, demanding that the area be "re-opened" for normal business and personal activity. By 1 May there had been demonstrations in more than half of the states, and many governors began to take steps to lift the restrictions.
One of the first protests was in Michigan on 15 April 2020, organized by conservative groups which also encouraged groups in other states to copy their wording and templates. Protesters in numerous other states said they were inspired by Michigan, and they used Michigan's material on their own websites, Facebook groups, and Reddit pages to promote their protests. Subsequent protests were organized by Republican activists or party organizations, Tea Party activists, armed militia movement supporters, guns-rights activists, and "anti-vaccination" advocates.
Protesters, many without face masks, opposed the shelter-in-place orders in their states for various reasons. Many said they want businesses reopened so they can go back to work. Many others displayed pro-Trump banners, signs, and MAGA hats. Still others insisted the lockdowns were a violation of their constitutional rights. One militia leader told a reporter, "Re-open my state or we will re-open it ourselves." Articles published by two liberal publications, an opinion article in The New York Times, and an article in the Washington Post claim that the anger driving the protests was called "both real and manufactured", blaming conservative groups for engaging in astroturfing via centralized organization backed by anonymous donors.
President Trump originally issued guidelines for how to phase out restrictions, saying that governors would decide how to reopen their own states and suggesting a cautious three-phase approach. However, the next day he reacted to the protests against social restrictions by encouraging the protests. Governor Jay Inslee (D-WA) accused the president of "fomenting domestic rebellion" and said the president's call to ignore his own team's guidelines was "schizophrenic".
Facebook announced that it would block events and messages from anti-quarantine protest groups "when gatherings do not follow the health parameters established by the government and are therefore unlawful".
In California, Libertarian Party chapters in Santa Clara and San Francisco counties condemned lockdown measures in the state with a resolution stating in part that, "these government impositions have already lasted for longer than could be justified by the purpose for which they were allegedly necessary, constituting a sort of "mission creep" that could potentially keep them in place with no definite end, and with economic and social damage continuing to accumulate and becoming more severe."
Cell phone data from digital-contact tracing software, captured from opt-in cellphone apps and the Firm VoteMap, then provided to The Guardian (publication) by progressive campaign group the Committee to Protect Medicare, suggests that cell phones present at anti-lockdown protests in Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Michigan and North Carolina traveled long distances after leaving the protests. Dr. Rob Davidson, executive director of the Committee to Protect Medicare, said that although “it’s hard to draw a straight line between devices, individuals at these protests, and cases”, the data suggests that the protests may be epidemiologically significant events." and that "The behavior we’re seeing at protests carries a high risk of infection." 
On Mother's Day (9 May) around 100 to 300 protesters picketed against the lockdown and vaccinations outside Victoria's Parliament House in Melbourne. Protesters defied social-distancing restrictions and violent scenes ensued.
On 25 May, during the Anniversary of the First National Government, protests erupted all over the country, but predominantly in Buenos Aires and Cordoba. The protest consisted mostly of small business owners demanding the local and national governments to be allowed to work, under a sanitary protocol. At this point, the stay-at-home order had been in place nationwide for 65 days.
On 20 June, which is the country's National Flag Day, the size of the protests had grown immensely compared to the previous ones held in late May. While business owners and workers were still calling for more workplaces to be allowed to operate, the government's attempt to expropriate Vicentín, a soy and wheat manufacturer and one of the largest exporting firms in the country, also sparked outrage and motivated protests in many provinces where agriculture plays a big role in their local economy, particularly in the Santa Fe Province, where this business is located. Due to the huge backlash, president Alberto Fernandez has decided to step down and not take over the company. Protests also took place in the city centre of most cities and at the gates of the presidential residence. While the lockdown had been lifted in most provinces and municipalities, it was still enforced in Greater Buenos Aires, which represents around 60% of the Argentine economy. On this day, the stay-at-home order had been in place for 90 days, making it the longest mandatory quarantine in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
On 9 July, the country's Independence Day, protests flared up once again. In addition to workers and entrepreneurs asking to be allowed to work, many were angered by the fact that Lazaro Baez, who is serving jail time for money laundering and stealing from taxpayers' money and is associated with much of the government staff, could be eligible for parole. This incident, and the murder of Fabián Gutiérrez, who was ex-president Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner's secretary while she was in office, which many opposition affiliates believe was orchestrated by the administration and covered up as a "crime of passion" by two unknown men, also caused large outrage in some sectors of the population. This day marked 109 days since the lockdown was put in place in the Greater Buenos Aires area.
On 1 August, many opponents of Alberto Fernandez's government, and of Kirchnerism in general, took to the streets to rally against the judicial reform proposed by the administration. Many believe this is a way to absolve vicepresident Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner from her ongoing trials, and also a way to give the governing political party control over the judicial branch of government, all disguised under the promise that this reform will make judges and trials fairer and less biased to certain ideologies or political parties. While the lockdown has not been completely lifted in Buenos Aires, many activities and businesses are now allowed to take place again since mid-July, and a re-opening scheme with various stages has been designed and put in place, although with no strict dates. However, many companies, such as restaurants or bars for instance, still cannot open and many business owners are uncertain of how much more they can endure with their doors closed.
On 17 August, the General José de San Martín Memorial Day, a public holiday which commemorates Argentine liberator and army general José de San Martín, protestors gathered once again on the city centres of the main Argentine cities for the same reasons as the previous one, 16 days prior. This manifestation was backed by many political figures from the Juntos por el Cambio, Frente Despertar, Fuerza Unidaria Argentina, opposition forces, near patriotic , nationalist, liberal, libertarian and survivalist groups. Some, however, have decided to not publicly support the protests, most notably Horacio Rodríguez Larreta, mayor of Buenos Aires.
On 19 April, Brazil's Armed Forces Day, Bolsonaro gathered with about 600 protesters in front of the Army's headquarters in Brasilia to demand a "military intervention" into the handling of the coronavirus situation. Smaller protests calling for governors to resign occurred the previous day in Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo and Brasilia.
On 18 March, riots took place at the communes of El Bosque, La Pintana, and other communes in the Santiago Metropolitan Region. Rioters are denouncing the hunger resulting from the partial and total lockdowns in the region. They claim that the lockdowns have left them without work and means of sustenance.
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- Anti-Mask League of San Francisco
- Impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on politics
- National responses to the COVID-19 pandemic
- Strikes during the COVID-19 pandemic
- Face masks during the COVID-19 pandemic
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