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Protesters turned out in major cities worldwide this weekend to demonstrate frustrations over returning coronavirus lockdown measures, even as cases spike and the global death toll approaches 1 million.
More than a thousand people gathered in central London as Mayor Sadiq Khan and Prime Minister Boris Johnson consider whether to resume lockdown measures, according to Reuters.
Demonstrators carried banners saying “Covid is a hoax,” “My body, my choice: no to mandatory masks” and “This is now Tyranny.”
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Khan has warned that the city may add curfews, force pubs to close earlier, and ban household visits in an attempt to curb the city’s rise in new cases.
“I am extremely concerned by the latest evidence I’ve seen today from public health experts about the accelerating speed at which COVID-19 is now spreading here in London,” Khan said Friday. “It is increasingly likely that, in London, additional measures will soon be required to slow the spread of the virus.”
A protester holds up a placard in front of police officers during a "Resist and Act for Freedom" protest against a mandatory coronavirus vaccine, wearing masks, social distancing and a second lockdown, in Trafalgar Square, London, Saturday, Sept. 19, 2020. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)
The “Resist and Act for Freedom” rally also drew a number of conspiracy theorists, including anti-vaxxers and 5G theorists, according to the Guardian. Metropolitan police had cleared the area by early evening.
Police said they attended in order to discourage the gatherings.
“Despite this, protesters remained, putting themselves and others at risk,” Scotland Yard said in a statement. “It is important to remember that we are still in the middle of a global pandemic, and the changes have been introduced to help control the spread of the virus, keep everybody safe and save lives.”
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Other places in Europe saw similar protests, with hundreds gathering in Dusseldorf and Madrid. The German protests saw some demonstrators calling to “Free Julian Assange” as those in attendance allegedly did not wear masks or observe distancing protocols, ABC News reported.
People hold placards including one portraying Bill Gates as they take part in a "Resist and Act for Freedom" protest against a mandatory coronavirus vaccine, wearing masks, social distancing and a second lockdown, in Trafalgar Square, London, Saturday, Sept. 19, 2020. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)
In Spain, protests did attempt to uphold social distancing and safety measures even as they called for Madrid region President Isabel Diaz Ayuso to step down. Some protesters chanted “For every one or no one!” as a counter to announcements of localized lockdowns that some residents feel disproportionately affect the poorest in the city.
Madrid’s rate of transmission is double the national average, which once again sees it as the most-afflicted nation in Europe.
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Australian police arrested around 100 protesters who gathered in Melbourne, turning an already disorganized scene into total chaos, the Guardian reported.
There was “a lot of running and not much protesting”, one photographer said.
Victoria police said the protest was a “blatant breach” of the chief health officer’s directions.
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“We are frustrated that these people continue to put the lives of Victorians at risk,” a police statement said. “While we know the majority of the community are doing the right thing, the behavior of these selfish few who choose to blatantly ignore the direction will not be tolerated.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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