Protests flare up in US, other countries against coronavirus lockdowns

Agence France-Presse

Posted at Apr 22 2020 01:12 AM

Armed men take part in a "reopen" Pennsylvania demonstration on April 20, 2020 in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, in the United States. Nicholas Kamm, AFP

Demonstrations against confinement measures aimed at combatting the coronavirus have taken place from the United States and Brazil to Russia, via Africa.

But such protests remain on the margins, involving hundreds or thousands, while 4.5 billion people have been told or asked to stay-at-home to fight the pandemic.

Here is a snapshot:

The United States

Over the past week there have been scattered protests in several US states against confinement measures, from New Hampshire, Maryland and Pennsylvania to Texas and California.

The demonstrators, some of them armed, were mostly mask-free and many ignored social distancing measures.

The biggest protest to date was in the Michigan state capital Lansing on April 15, where about 3,000 protestors gathered.

US President Donald Trump has apparently tweeted support for demonstrators in three states -- Minnesota, Michigan and Virginia -- against lockdowns imposed by Democratic governors.

But while the noisy demonstrations have drummed up attention, the protestors represent a minority because more than 80 percent of US residents would approve a national stay-at-home order, according to a recent Quinnipiac poll.

The United States has suffered the highest toll from the pandemic with more than 42,360 fatalities and 787,900 confirmed cases.

Brazil

On Sunday, around 600 demonstrators outside army headquarters in the capital Brasilia protested stay-at-home orders issued by state governors. They also called on the army to intervene and demanded the Congress be closed. 

Far right President Jair Bolsonaro, who has played down the deadly virus, joined the demonstrators.

Bolsonaro has constantly criticised partial quarantine measures adopted by governors, which are less stringent than those in place in Europe and neighbouring Latin American countries.

He sacked his popular health minister, who supported restrictions that Bolsonaro says are damaging the economy.

A majority of 68 percent of Brazilians approve the confinement regulations despite its impact on the economy, according to an April 18 poll.

The Russian Caucasus

Hundreds of people defied social distancing recommendations Monday and gathered in Vladikavkaz, the capital of North Ossetia in Russia's turbulent North Caucasus region, to protest coronavirus restrictions. Several protesters were detained.

The protest came amid anger at what many Russians say is a lack of adequate support for ordinary people and for small and medium-sized businesses during the epidemic.

In late March, North Ossetia, one of Russia's poorest regions, forced non-essential shops to close, and it strictly applies confinement measures recommended by Moscow.

Niger

Late Sunday, violent protests erupted in the Niger capital Niamey against measures aimed at containing the pandemic, including a nighttime curfew and a ban on collective prayers in the mainly Muslim country. More than 100 people were arrested.

Tunisia

In Tunisia, several hundred people demonstrated in a working class district of the capital on March 31, demanding promised government support and protesting a week-old lockdown against the coronavirus pandemic that has left many without income.

Demonstrations have also taken place in South Africa, Colombia and Venezuela to demand more financial and food aid.