Thousands Of People Around The World Protest Their Countries’ Vaccine Mandates

(Photo by LARS HAGBERG/AFP via Getty Images)

Dylan Housman Deputy News Editor
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Thousands of people across the world took to the streets over the weekend to protest their governments’ vaccine mandates and COVID-19 restrictions.

Things kicked off Saturday in Canada, where nearly 3,000 truckers and thousands more protesters effectively shut down parts of Ottawa near Canada’s parliament. The self-proclaimed “Freedom Convoy” began on the nation’s west coast in Vancouver as a protest against Canada’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate for truckers, and inspired similar demonstrations throughout Europe.

Both the United States and Canada instituted cross-border vaccine mandates for truckers in January. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau accused the opposition Conservative Party of “fear mongering” about supply chain issues as his country experiences inflation and goods shortages.

Canadian officials have stressed that 90% of truckers crossing the American border are fully vaccinated and that the U.S. policy effectively means that a dropping of the mandate by Ottawa wouldn’t change anything. (RELATED: Could Omicron Finally ‘Shut Down The Virus?’ These Experts Say Yes)

That didn’t stop protesters from remaining around the capital Sunday and Monday, blocking traffic and promising to remain until all coronavirus mandates are gone, not just the trucking border requirement. “It’s not just about the vaccines. It’s about stopping the public health mandates altogether,” said Valley Flatbed & Transportation owner Daniel Bazinet of Nova Scotia, according to the New York Post.

The protest was reportedly entirely peaceful, with no arrests made. Police are investigating several incidents, including an alleged desecration of Canada’s tomb of the unknown soldier and the harassment of a soup kitchen by demanding free meals. Those incidents, as well as calls for violence, have been condemned by the convoy’s organizers. No cases of violence have been reported.

Reaction to the demonstration has been mixed. Trudeau called the protesters a “fringe minority,” and they were condemned by a Canadian trucking trade group, the Canadian Trucking Alliance.

But in the U.S., former President Donald Trump praised the demonstrators during a rally Saturday. Tesla co-founder Elon Musk tweeted “Canadian truckers rule.”

The truckers may not have Canadian public opinion on their side, though. A substantial majority of Canadians said they want the government to impose more restrictions on the unvaccinated in one January poll, and a narrow majority said the unvaccinated should be subjected to increased taxation. (RELATED: Unvaccinated Must Be ‘Accompanied At All Times’ While Shopping At Big Box Stores, Canadian Health Ministry Says)

Meanwhile, Trudeau announced Monday he has tested positive for COVID-19 and is working in isolation. He had been moved to a secret location around Ottawa as the protesters descended onto the city Saturday.

At the same time the truckers were rolling through Ottawa, similar protests were sweeping across Europe against COVID-19 restrictions. A “Convoy for Freedom” of several dozen vehicles traversed through the Netherlands Sunday, prompted by the Canadian demonstrations. In Brussels, well over 1,000 people took to the streets to protest vaccine mandates.

Czech authorities abandoned a recent plan to mandate vaccinations for seniors and workers in certain professions, but that didn’t stop thousands of citizens from protesting in Prague against other restrictions on the unvaccinated, such as a new ban from eating in restaurants. Cases are currently skyrocketing in the country, according to Reuters.

Videos showed thousands of people amassed in the streets across Germany to protest COVID-19 restrictions and mandates in that country. In the spring, Germany authorities will begin enforcing a vaccine mandate for health care workers, and unvaccinated Germans are no longer allowed to go to cafes and restaurants unless they were recently infected with the virus.