Vaccine passport protests in Europe draw thousands of people

HELSINKI (AP) — Thousands of people gathered in European capitals Saturday to protest vaccine passports and other requirements governments have imposed in hopes of ending the coronavirus pandemic.

Demonstrations took place in Athens, Helsinki, London, Paris and Stockholm.

Marches in Paris drew hundreds of demonstrators protesting the introduction from Monday of a new COVID-19 pass. It will severely restrict the lives of those who refuse to get vaccinated by banning them from domestic flights, sports events, bars, cinemas and other leisure venues. French media reported that demonstrators also marched by the hundreds in other cities.

In Sweden, where vaccine certificates are required to attend indoor events with more than 50 people, some 3,000 demonstrators marched though central Stockholm and assembled in a main square for a protest organized by the Frihetsrorelsen – or Freedom Movement.

Swedish media reported that representatives from the neo-Nazi Nordic Resistance Movement attended the action with a banner. Police closely monitor the group, which has been associated with violent behavior at demonstrations.

Swedish security police had warned that right-wing extremists might take part in Saturday’s protest. No major incidents or clashes were reported by late afternoon.

A similar demonstration with some 1,000 participants was held also in Goteborg, Sweden’s second-largest city.

The Finnish government authorized local and regional authorities just before Christmas to introduce “extensive and full measures” in response to rising virus cases involving the omicron variant.

The restrictions included limiting or prohibiting events, moving university classes online, limiting restaurant service and closing venues where people have a higher risk of exposure. Restaurants and events are allowed to require vaccine passports.

Police said some 4,000 people marched Saturday through the streets of central Helsinki to protest. A group called World Wide Demonstration organized the demonstration. No unrest or violence was reported to police.

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Follow AP’s pandemic coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic

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