“Freedom for Denmark, we have had enough” was the message on Saturday as thousands of anti-lockdown protesters lit up the streets of Copenhagen with flares and torches for the fourth weekend in a row.
Organised by a group that calls itself “Men In Black”, this weekend’s protest against COVID-19 restrictions remained largely peaceful and free of arrests, unlike those in previous weeks. Only a few loud firecracker bombs were set off, sending a start through the crowd.
“We have had enough, and that’s why we’ve come here,” said one protester, speaking at Christiansborg Slotsplads, a square just outside the Danish parliament building. “To say that we’re against this health regime they’re forcing onto all of us.”
Another protester who identified herself as Mona “Fred”, meaning “peace”, said: “I stand here to tell you that I love Denmark all the way into my bones, and this imprisonment the politicians have imposed on us is not just worrying, it is completely destructive.”
Some protesters carried signs, including those that read: “COVID 1984”, “Vaccine passports = discrimination”, and “Hello grandchild, I did everything I could.” Another displayed an image of Kim Jong Un, manipulated to resemble the Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen, with “The dictator must go to prison” written underneath.
The Danish government implemented a full lockdown after the country experienced a second wave of coronavirus infections over Christmas. In late December, all non-essential businesses and stores were ordered to close, and students sent home from school.
Saturday’s demonstration was in response to the Danish government’s plan to issue vaccine passports to people who have received their shots and need to travel for business, with the potential to expand to include other types of travel. Ministers hope that the passports will allow for a gradual re-opening of the Danish economy before vaccinations can be rolled out to the entire population. If implemented, Denmark would be the first country to hand out government-issued vaccine passports.
The Men In Black, however, consider such passports a violation of their human rights, believing that the document would discriminate against people who are not comfortable getting the vaccine.
A statement published on the Men In Black Facebook page reads: “Every human has the RIGHT to decide if they support the vaccine, are sceptical of its development and want to see more results before they make a decision, or if they reserve the right to not be vaccinated. IT IS YOUR BODY – NOT THE STATE’S!”
At the Copenhagen protest on Saturday, protester Henriette Pedersen gave her reason for resisting the vaccine passport. “We’re demonstrating today because we have the right to control our own bodies,” she said. “You’re separating people in A and B groups: those who get vaccinated, and those who don’t. That shouldn’t make a difference. It is a violation of our right to decide for our own bodies.”
Patrick Pagh, another protester, spoke of his fear of being cut off from society by refusing the vaccine. “This means that if you want to be part of society then you need to get the vaccine, and if you don’t get your vaccine, then you can’t be a part of society,” he said. “You can’t attend festivals, and you can’t go travelling. We can’t have that in a country like ours.”
Without providing any evidence, Pagh went on to accuse the Danish government of lying about the infection and mortality rates of COVID-19. As of today, Denmark has had just over 200,000 infections and 2,200 deaths, with daily infection rates at around 400.
Marching at the very front of the protest were two children, who helped carry a banner that read: “Sortklædt Modstand”, or “black-clad resistance”. A handful of protesters wearing military-style fatigues marched either side of the banner to prevent anyone from charging ahead of it. Protesters said that the police had ordered them to stick to this position following the violence of previous demonstrations.
The Copenhagen anti-lockdown protesters held their first demonstration in January, and turnout has grown every week since. So far, more than 20 people have been arrested. One protest in particular sparked outrage for the burning of a doll with Mette Frederiksen’s face. Strapped to the doll’s chest was a sign with the words: “She must and shall be killed!” Politicians and public figures from all sides of the political spectrum condemned the burning, including some Men In Black members.
Speaking in the Danish press at the time, opposition politician Sophie Løhde said: “Simply obscene to string up a doll of the prime minister and light it on fire. Totally fine to disagree politically, but this is too bad for words and doesn’t encourage constructive dialogue and debate.”
Anti-lockdown demonstrations may be condemned by the majority in Denmark, but the protesters show no sign of backing down. Towards the end of Saturday’s protest, one man wielding a megaphone shouted: “You will soon see us in the streets again.”