From Europe to Australia, protesters denounce health restrictions in the name of freedom

In France, more than 160,000 people marched on Saturday July 24 against the extension of the health pass and the compulsory anti-Covid-19 vaccination for certain professions. The protest movement, however, goes beyond the borders of France. From Italy to Australia, via England, tens of thousands of demonstrators have taken to the streets to denounce what they call the “health dictatorship”.

Global protest movement

The slogans “Freedom! “Echoed in major Italian cities as the government announced the establishment of a mandatory health pass to access certain public places closed from August 6. The country is facing a significant increase in cases of Delta variant contaminations. Elsewhere in Europe, similar scenes animated the arteries of London, Manchester, Dublin but also Athens.

The “World Rally for Freedom” also found resonance in Australia, where thousands of demonstrators marched without permission through the streets of Sydney. In Melbourne, the country’s second city, protesters denounced the extension of confinement for an additional month in order to stem, there too, the spread of the Delta variant. Clashes broke out with mounted police.

Sanitary fed up

According to Myriam Benraad, professor of international relations associated with the Free Institute for the Study of International Relations (Ileri), and author of the book Geopolitics of anger (1), this challenge is explained first of all by the absence of a political solution to the health crisis: “Astonishment turned to anger. Initially, governments said that the health crisis would be over within six months and today we can see that we are far from over. “

The exasperation generated by months of health restrictions does not in itself explain the scale of the phenomenon.“By observing the profile of the demonstrators, we realize that they express a mistrust vis-à-vis power, the media and institutions which hold knowledge such as schools or the medical sector”, analysis Philippe Breton, professor emeritus of sociology at the University of Strasbourg. The researcher, who has extensively studied the logics of social exclusion through abstention, is “Not surprised to find in the street these same people, invisible twenty years ago, and today present in the public space. “

Freedom, a central issue

This distrust of institutions is found in many Western democracies. “Our liberal societies are subject to the same forces of atomization, of individualization, which come into contradiction with the fact of being imposed constraints”, advances the academic to explain the global dimension of the protest phenomenon.

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This fed up also resonates with the character considered to be liberticidal measures such as the health pass or new confinements. “In Western democracies, individuals are very attached to individual freedoms, hence the challenges when they feel that they are under attack”, adds Myriam Benraad. “ This central place of the concept of freedom is common to Western societies., adds Philippe Breton. Its definition is perhaps the main issue of these protests. “


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