Demonstrators defy ban to protest against lockdown
Several hundred demonstrators gathered in the Swiss capital, Bern, Basel, St Gallen and Zurich to protest against a government-imposed coronavirus lockdown. The rallies were held in defiance of police warnings not to infringe on social distancing rules.
Two groups of protestors had set up in Bern on Saturday afternoon, for a second week in a row, despite a ban on more than five people gathering in public places. Some were carrying posters with slogans such as “Freedom Yes – No Constraints”.
Police calls to disperse were met with boos. Police said they would not intervene because elderly people and children were among the crowds. By late afternoon the demonstration had finished.
A demonstration in Basel broke up at around 3pm when police arrived on the scene. A rally of around 100 people in Zurich also dispersed peacefully with no arrests made or fines handed out.
Last weekend, police broke up several demonstrations in Swiss cities, including Bern and Zurich. The protests were against the social and economic restrictions that have been in place in Switzerland since mid-March.
The police action was questioned by civil rights group Amnesty International. “Even during an epidemic, a general ban on assemblies should be a measure of last resort. Measures to restrict public demonstrations should be applied proportionately. There is no reason to prohibit forms of action that do not pose a threat to public health,” the Swiss branch of the NGO stated.
On Monday, some schools, shops and restaurants will be allowed to re-open, but large gatherings and many public buildings will remain closed for more weeks.
There have been more than 30,000 confirmed cases of Covid-19 in Switzerland and over 1,800 deaths.
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