Violent protest because of stricter corona policies


European Union


Protesters set up fire in the street during a demonstration on Sunday against Belgium government's measures to curb the spread of the coronavirus and mandatory vaccination in Brussels. Photo AFP, Hatim Kaghat

During demonstrations across Europe against the corona policy, violent confrontations with the police have occurred, especially in the Netherlands and Belgium. Meanwhile, in Germany, discussions are taking place on a compulsory vaccination.

A large demonstration in Brussels on Sunday degenerated into a battle with the police. Media report several people were injured, including policemen, and numerous instances of vandalism. About 40 rioters were arrested.

During the march in the centre of the Belgian capital, some of the 35,000 demonstrators turned against the police officers. The troublemakers threw fireworks and other objects, which the police responded with water cannon and tear gas. Burning barricades can be seen on social media. Police vehicles were damaged, but the windows of other cars were smashed as well.

The violence erupted when the crowd arrived in the so-called European quarter, where European Union institutions are located. Some of the participants refused to follow the agreed route.

In the run-up to the demonstration, the Belgian media speculated whether things would get as out of hand in Brussels as they did in the Netherlands.


On Friday evening, the riot police carried out charges in Rotterdam. A water cannon was also deployed, and an emergency order was in force. Police officers even had to shoot to protect themselves.

Protests against the corona policy on Friday evening in the Dutch port city of Rotterdam. Photo ANP Media TV

Hundreds of demonstrators had gathered in the city centre on Friday evening. They were protesting against the so-called 2G policy ("2G" refers to the two g's in "gevaccineerd" and "genezen" - Dutch words for vaccinated and recovered) that the government is pushing, where people only get a coronation ticket if they are vaccinated or cured. The demonstration then turned into riots.

Protesters set off fireworks and started fires in the streets. They also destroyed police cars and street furniture. Images of a police car that was set on fire can be seen on social media.

On Sunday evening, there was again unrest in several places in the Netherlands.


Tens of thousands of people have demonstrated in the Austrian capital Vienna against the latest coronas measures, such as the strict lockdown from Monday and the general obligation to vaccinate next February.

The right-wing opposition party FPÖ had called for the protest. However, FPÖ leader Kickl was absent because he is infected with corona, Austrian media report. He held a speech via video. He warned of a dictatorship.

The police, who numbered 40,000 protesters, were on hand with over 1,300 men. At least ten people were arrested. Demonstrators pelted officers with beer cans and bottles. Here and there, confrontations erupted.

Demonstrators carry torches and a sign which reads "No compulsory vaccination" during a rally held by Austria's far-right Freedom Party FPÖ against the measures taken to curb the coronavirus pandemic, at Maria Theresien Platz square in Vienna on Saturday. Photo AFP, Joe Klamar

Opponents of coronation measures also took to the streets elsewhere in Europe, including Rome, Milan and the Croatian capital Zagreb.

Austria will be completely closed again on Monday to counter the sharp increase in the number of coronas infected. Only supermarkets, drugstores and pharmacies are allowed to stay open; restaurants and most schools will remain closed for at least the next ten days. People may only leave their homes for shopping, exercise, work, or to visit a doctor. The lockdown is a prelude to the general obligation to vaccinate, a first in the European Union, which comes into force on 1 February.

In Austria, just over 65 per cent of the population has been vaccinated.


Lothar Wieler, the Robert Koch Institute for Disease Control (RKI) head, warns of new corona waves unless more people get vaccinated. "If we do not significantly increase vaccination rates, the models indicate that there will also be a fifth corona wave," Wieler told German news agency DPA. According to the RKI chief, Germany is currently facing a national emergency, and what people do now will determine the situation in winter.

Currently, less than 70 per cent of Germans have been vaccinated.

Vaccination obligation

In the meantime, there is a debate in Germany over whether the country should follow Austria's example and introduce a general obligation to vaccinate.

The leader of the Christian Democratic CSU in Bavaria has spoken out in favour of compulsory vaccination. Because incentives to vaccinate are no longer sufficient, "we have to resort to other solutions", he explained. The Bavarian minister of Health, Holetschek, has said that “we have to speak about this topic soon”. He admitted that compulsory vaccination would be the way out of the pandemic. Also, the Prime Minister of the German state Schleswig-Holstein, Günther, shows himself ready for the mandatory inoculation.

But large parts of the social-democratic SPD and liberal FDP are against a general vaccination obligation. Even the current Foreign Minister, Heiko Maas (SPD), reiterated this at the weekend. The FDP, however, is open to a "facility-based compulsory vaccination", for example, in old people's homes or nursing homes.

In the meantime, the heated discussion is also considered on the homepage of the federal government. For months there were the sentences: "Will there be compulsory vaccination? No, there will be no compulsory vaccination". They have since been removed. The passage was taken off the web because of the "decisions of the recent Minister Presidents' Conference", a spokeswoman explained.



Subscribe for an update, and receive a documentary and e-book for free.

Choose your subscriptions*

You may subscribe to multiple lists.