Protesters took to major cities around the world over the weekend to demonstrate their frustration with the return of coronavirus lockdown measures, even as cases soar and the global death toll approaches one million.
More than a thousand people have gathered in central London as Mayor Sadiq Khan and Prime Minister Boris Johnson consider resuming lockdown measures, according to Reuters.
Protesters carried banners saying “Covid is a hoax”, “My body, my choice: no to compulsory masks” and “Now is tyranny”.
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Khan warned the city could add curfews, force pubs to close earlier and ban home visits in a bid to curb the increase in new cases in the city.
“I am extremely concerned by the latest evidence I saw today from public health experts on the rate of acceleration at which COVID-19 is now spreading here in London,” Khan said on Friday. “It is increasingly likely that in London additional measures will soon be needed to slow the spread of the virus.”
The “Resist and Act for Freedom” rally also attracted a number of conspiracy theorists, including anti-vaxxers and 5G theorists, according to the Guardian. Metropolitan police cleared the area in the early evening.
Police said they were present to discourage rallies.
“Despite this, the protesters remained, putting themselves and others at risk,” Scotland Yard said in a statement. “It’s important to remember that we are still in the midst of a global pandemic and the changes were introduced to help control the spread of the virus, keep everyone safe and save lives.”
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Other places in Europe have seen similar protests, with hundreds of rallies in Düsseldorf and Madrid. The German protests saw some protesters calling for “freeing Julian Assange” as those present reportedly did not wear masks or observe distancing protocols, ABC News reported.
In Spain, the protests tried to maintain social distancing and security measures even as they called on Madrid region president Isabel Diaz Ayuso to step down. Some demonstrators chanted “For everyone or for no one!” to counter announcements of localized closures that some residents say disproportionately affect the city’s poorest.
Madrid’s transmission rate is double the national average, which once again considers it the most affected country in Europe.
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Australian police arrested around 100 protesters who gathered in Melbourne, turning an already disorganized scene into utter chaos, the Guardian reported.
There were “a lot of races and few protests,” said one photographer.
Victoria Police said the protest was a “flagrant violation” of the chief of health’s instructions.
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“We are frustrated that these people continue to put the lives of Victorians in danger,” police said. “While we know that the majority of the community is doing the right thing, the behavior of those selfish few who choose to blatantly ignore leadership will not be tolerated.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.