‘Orgy of Violence’ Sweeps Europe Over New Lockdowns
Police clashed with anti-vax crowds in Austria, Belgium, and the Netherlands as ICUs and morgues fill up across the continent.
ROME—Tensions over new COVID-19 restrictions triggered by a deadly surge erupted across Europe in city after city this weekend, some exploding into violent clashes with police.
More than 30,000 demonstrators took to the streets Sunday in Brussels, near the EU headquarters, to oppose new measures that include mask mandates and and work-at-home rules.
Though it began peacefully, the protest eventually devolved into chaos, with some marchers setting fires and throwing objects at police—who then turned on water cannons and tear gas.
The anger in the streets seemed detached from the reality of intensive care wards once again reaching capacity and death tolls rising. Europe is now the epicenter of the latest wave of the pandemic, which health experts say is now creeping across the Atlantic to the U.S. where numbers are starting to rise in the northern states.
The World Health Organization says 500,000 people across Europe will die if steps including vaccines and booster mandates are not taken to stop what has become the worst of four waves of the pandemic.
Despite the dire warnings and rising case counts, lockdown opponents massed in the streets—each gathering threatening to become another superspreader.
In the Netherlands, police used live ammunition to fire warning shots over crowds demonstrating in Rotterdam who had burned cars and destroyed property in what the mayor called “an orgy of violence” after the government instilled an 8 p.m. curfew. Three of the demonstrators were hit by stray bullets and are still hospitalized.
The next night, crowds in The Hague hurled fireworks at police and reportedly set fire to bicycles, while crowds in other Dutch cities broke into soccer stadiums, delaying matches.
In Austria, where Monday will mark a 20-day full lockdown—for vaccinated and unvaccinated alike—tens of thousands of mostly maskless people took to the streets of Vienna on Saturday. The march was organized by the country’s far-right party, whose leader Herbert Kickl had to cancel a speech at the last minute after he tested positive for COVID.
The Austrian government also ruled that vaccines were to be legally mandated to all who can receive one by Feb. 1, marking the strictest vaccine mandate anywhere in the West. Just under 66 percent of Austrians have been fully vaccinated, just slightly less than Germany, which has seen the highest numbers of new daily infections since the pandemic began in early 2020. The situation is so dire in Germany that the region of Bavaria cancelled all Christmas markets this year to discourage people from gathering. Meanwhile, in the United States, only 59 percent of people are fully vaccinated.
In Italy, around 3,000 people gathered in Rome’s Circus Maximus to rail against the threat of a new requirement that will make the country’s vaccine “green pass” required for anyone to go to work invalid for those who do not get a booster shot.
On the Caribbean island of Guadeloupe, which has to abide French laws since it is an overseas outpost, rioters used live ammunition against police and set businesses on fire to protect health pass restrictions.