Dangerous protests against corona restrictions?

Protests against the restrictions imposed amidst the coronavirus pandemic are taking place in a growing number of European countries. Last weekend saw demonstrations in Germany, the UK, Poland, Spain and Switzerland. Commentators voice understanding for some of the protesters concerns and demands, but warn of the dangers of various different groups coming together at the rallies.

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Der Standard (AT) /

Protests are fine, but not with extremists

Der Standard observes the heterogeneous anti-corona demos with concern:

“Anti-vaxxers who are ardently spreading the view that the virus does not exist are also at the demos. ... There is no sign of empathy with people who have fallen ill or died from the coronavirus. Instead you hear sentences like: 'It only affects the old and the weak anyway.' This fits in with the world view of another group that always turns up at demos: right-wing extremists spreading their propaganda. And then there are participants who are worried about their future, their job or about protecting basic democratic rights. There's nothing wrong with that. The virus is an imposition, but no one has to join forces with the right-wing extremists or coronavirus deniers for that reason. If they turn up, it's better to go home or organise your own rally.”

Adevărul (RO) /

We're just at the start of a series of crises

This is shaping up to be a summer of protests, says political analyst Iulian Chifu in his blog with Adevărul:

“This is far from over for us. In fact, the pandemic is only just beginning to produce a multitude of overlapping and mutually reinforcing crises. Fertile breeding ground for misinformation and manipulation, which are then unleashed in protest movements. The mere prospect of the social turmoil triggered by a recession points to this becoming a hot summer. ... Attempts to overcome the crisis through efficient governance and preventive measures could be quickly drowned out by the noise of professional misinformation and people's fear of losing their status, their standard of living, their job or their small family business.”

El HuffPost (ES) /

The upper class's concept of freedom

2. Residents of the wealthy neighbourhood of Salamanca in Madrid are protesting for freedom and against the curfew. In an ironic commentary piece in El HuffPost, psychologist José Errasti explains why they deserve sympathy:

“You have to understand: they're not used to following orders, usually they're the ones who give them. And like everything in life, taking orders is a skill that requires some training. ... Their idea of freedom can be summed up in a word: 'Freedom should not be confused with licentiousness'. On the understanding that 'freedom' is the possibility they claim for themselves to do as they please, whereas 'licentiousness' is the same thing for everyone else. ... As with education and health, in their view 'public freedom' is fine for those who can't afford 'private freedom'. But they can afford this freedom, after all they've been busy inheriting their whole life long. ... Freedom to infect others.”

Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (DE) /

A primitive understanding of freedom

The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung considers the path of personal responsibility the demonstrators are calling for to be very inadequate:

“Without regard for distancing rules, without masks, without any logic, protesters in Stuttgart and elsewhere advocated a freedom that is a freedom without measure, without responsibility, without any assessment of the impact, without citizenship. But this freedom is not part of our fundamental rights. It belongs to a constitution of primitiveness. ... The personal responsibility that the protesters love to talk about is in reality an ego responsibility, a contradiction in itself. Assuming personal responsibility would mean taking into account that one's own behaviour could cause others to be infected - and thus dramatically restrict their freedom.”

Blick (CH) /

Not an opinion, just stupidity

The tabloid Blick rakes the protesters over the coals:

“Imagine an entire village extinguishing a burning house with water. Only one of them throws gasoline into the flames from the other side. This is exactly what's happening in Germany. In Berlin, Munich, and Hamburg, hundreds are protesting against the government's coronavirus measures. ... A slap in the face for all those who have been holed up at home for weeks on end. Out of concern for their own health. Out of fear for their loved ones. Or simply out of solidarity. ... On the social networks the 'corona sceptics' are spurring the protesters on. What kind of word is that anyway? How can you be 'sceptical' about a global pandemic? Questioning the recommendations of experts worldwide, the WHO and all democratic governments isn't an opinion, it's stupidity.”

taz, die tageszeitung (DE) /

Loud and shrill, but irrelevant

The daily taz recommends calmness:

“Because all this is also a fleeting effect of the 'attention economy'. It has seldom been easier to turn the spotlight on oneself. ... This new transverse front is not as influential as it suggests in its filter bubbles. According to a survey carried out by the broadcaster ARD, less than ten percent of those interviewed roundly condemn the government's crisis management. The alliance of protesters ranging from anti-vaxxers to right-wing extremists is loud and shrill - but not so stable. So far we have been dealing with an aesthetically harmful phenomenon rather than one that poses a threat to democracy.”