Thousands of protesters on Saturday marched through London to express their frustration with COVID-19 restrictions, which may soon include vaccine passports to prove inoculations.
London mayoral candidates Laurence Fox and David Kurten attended the march which started in Hyde Park and snaked through the city around 1 p.m. When police tried to break up the demonstration, protesters turned violent, hurling rocks and bottles at police. Eight officers were injured and five protesters arrested.
“Eight officers were injured as they worked to disperse crowds in Hyde Park this evening,” London police wrote on Twitter. “Missiles including bottles were thrown in small pockets of disorder. Two officers were taken to hospital. Thankfully, they are not believed to be seriously injured.”
1/2 – Eight officers were injured as they worked to disperse crowds in Hyde Park this evening.
Missiles including bottles were thrown in small pockets of disorder. Two officers were taken to hospital. Thankfully, they are not believed to be seriously injured.
— Metropolitan Police Events (@MetPoliceEvents) April 24, 2021
The thousands of activists gathered for a “Unite for Freedom” protest centered around demanding a ban on vaccine passports.
“Photographs posted on social media show a female police officer bleeding from a cut to her head, while another suffered a similar wound on his forehead,” the Daily Mail reported. “A Met Police spokesman said two officers were taken to hospital after protesters turned violent last night. They added: ‘Eight officers were injured as they worked to disperse crowds in Hyde Park this evening. Missiles including bottles were thrown in small pockets of disorder. Two officers were taken to hospital. Thankfully, they are not believed to be seriously injured.'”
The protesters carried signs saying “no new normal” and “no health passport.”
The protest came amid government discussions to implement “Covid-status certificates,” which would be held by those who have had the vaccines and shown upon request by authorities. But Prime Minister Boris Johnson has opposed the passports, saying they would be “intrusive, costly and unnecessary.”
The passport plan has emerged in the U.S., too. Last month, Democratic New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced a new program that will require New Yorkers to show a COVID-19 “passport” to enter sports arenas, theaters, and other businesses.
The plan establishes an “Excelsior Pass” which will use secure technology to prove that a state resident has been vaccinated against COVID-19 or has had a recent negative test. Sites included in the rollout plan include Madison Square Garden and the Barclays Center, both sports and entertainment venues.
“Similar to a mobile airline boarding pass, individuals will be able to either print out their pass or store it on their smartphones using the Excelsior Pass’s ‘Wallet App,’” a press release on the governor’s webpage indicates. “Each pass will have a secure QR code, which venues will scan using a companion app to confirm someone’s COVID health status.”
“The results of the pilot program will be used to enhance the quality of the application, maximizing return on investment and saving development time, prior to submission to Apple and Google for approval to go into their app stores,” the release said.
But Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis wants no part of passports.
“It’s completely unacceptable for either the government or the private sector to impose upon you the requirement that you show proof of vaccine to just simply participate in normal society,” the governor said. “You want to go to a movie theater, should you have to show that? No. You want to go to a game, a theme park? No. So we’re not supportive of that.”
“We always said we wanted to provide it for all but mandate it for none,” DeSantis said at a press conference last week, NPR reported. “And that was something that, while it was advised to take particularly if you’re vulnerable, we were not going to force you to do it.”