Tens of thousands of people in Germany and France protested against COVID-19-related restrictions and vaccine passports over the weekend, saying the restrictions infringe on their rights.
German police had banned nine planned demonstrations for Aug. 28, including one from the Stuttgart-based Querdenker movement, the most visible anti-lockdown movement in Germany. A court ruled in favor of allowing one event, planned for 500 people, on Aug. 28 and 29.
More than 2,000 police officers were stationed around the city to respond to those who showed up despite the protest bans. At one Aug. 28 protest in Mitte, Germany, German media reported that police used pepper spray to disperse a crowd. The crowd eventually thinned as it began to rain.
Similar protests took place in Berlin in early August, which ended in clashes with police and hundreds of people detained.
In France, the Interior Ministry said that around 160,000 people took to the streets on Aug. 28 in the seventh weekend of protests within the country. Demonstrators argued that vaccine passports that were recently approved by the French Parliament unfairly restrict those who aren't vaccinated.
"We aren't laboratory rats," one 11-year-old boy said.
"We live in a free country. There are no figures that justify mass vaccinations," the boy's father said.
France's vaccine passport, which includes a QR code, allows businesses to scan to determine whether an individual has been fully vaccinated or has a recent negative COVID-19 test. The rule applies to restaurants, gyms, and theaters, as well as some long-distance travel.
Vaccine passports were also rolled out in New York and San Francisco. A number of New York-based businesses filed lawsuits against the city's vaccine passport mandate recently, arguing that it would impact their profits.
Some Republican-led states have approved legislation or issued orders in 2021 to restrict the usage of vaccine passports or similar systems.