Bolsonaro Joins Anti-Lockdown Protests as Unrest Grows Internationally
- Protests over coronavirus restrictions have broken out globally, and experts believe general unrest will continue to grow.
- In Brazil, President Bolsonaro, who has long-defied his government’s social distancing recommendations, joined a group of right-wing protestors calling for a military coup.
- Meanwhile, other countries have started to open up again.
Bolsonaro Joins Protests
Protests over coronavirus restrictions have been breaking out all around the world as economic uncertainties continue to grow.
Over the weekend, hundreds of people in major Brazilian cities held demonstrations against restrictions imposed by governors that have shut down businesses.
One of the most notable protests was held in the capital Brasilia, in front of the army headquarters. According to reports, around 600 demonstrators gathered, many of whom did not wear masks or protective gear.
In addition to calling for an end to the restrictions, the demonstrators demanded the closure of the Supreme Court and Congress, while also calling on the military to step in and handle the pandemic.
The protestors were mostly right-wing supporters of President Jair Bolsonaro, who showed up and to give a speech supporting the movement. Like many of protestors, the president did not wear a mask or gloves. Video footage showed him coughing into his hands multiple times throughout his speech.
While Bolsonaro did not directly call for Congres to be closed or for there to be a military coup, his appearance was widely condemned. Brazil was under a military rule for over two decades from 1964 to 1985, and calls to give the military more power are highly controversial.
Former presidents, politicians, and newspaper editorial boards criticized Bolsonaro. Even top military officials reportedly told local newspapers they were upset with the move.
Bolsonaro and the Coronavirus.
However, Bolsonaro’s appearance was just one part of his continued efforts to downplay the coronavirus and actively defy his government.
Not only has the Brazilian leader openly opposed lockdowns imposed by governors, but he has also gone against social distancing measures advised by both the World Health Organization and Brazil’s health ministry numerous times.
In recent weeks, he has stepped up his public appearances, meeting with supporters and protestors as well as business owners and others.
Despite Bolsonaro’s attempts to downplay the virus and flout health recommendations, Brazil currently has the highest number of confirmed cases in all of Latin America, with over 39,000 cases and 2,400 deaths as of Monday.
On Thursday, Bolsonaro took his standoff with the government one step further when he fired his health minister, who had urged Brazilians to socially distance and stay inside.
But that decision did not seem to have pubic support. A survey from the first week of April found that a large majority of Brazilians— abut 76%— approved of how the health minister was handling the crisis.
According to reports, a poll published this Saturday also showed that a majority of Brazilians still approve the government’s regulations, despite the impact on the economy.
Other Protests Around the World
Brazil, however, is just one of several countries facing social unrest.
Anti-lockdown riots broke out in Paris over the weekend and continued Monday morning, where rioters reportedly threw fireworks at police who responded with tear gas.
Last week, tens of thousands of migrant workers who do not have work or a way to get home held demonstrations in Mumbai, India.
There have also reportedly been protests breaking out in Lebanon and Iraq, which is significant because both countries had been the sites of prominent, on-going protest movements that took place all over the world before the pandemic.
Leading up to the coronavirus crisis, there had been a surge of global protest movements with a common thread. People in numerous countries held weeks and months long demonstrations against government corruption, economic injustice, and demands for reforms.
When the pandemic hit, those protests largely died out. But now, many experts say these movements are likely to start up again or spread to other parts of the world for several reasons.
First is the economic downtown that the coronavirus has caused and is continuing to cause globally.
One reason for this is that numerous experts, including the UN Secretary General, have warned that the economic situation risks increased social unrest and violence. Some have said that this will disproportionately impact poorer countries that cannot afford subsidies for lost jobs or other similar social safety nets.
Another possible cause of future protests is the fact that some leaders are using the coronavirus to expand authoritarian measures. At the end of March, Hungary passed a law allowing the Prime Minister to rule by decree indefinitely, basically giving him the ability to rule the country however he wants.
Kenya also started crackdowns on people breaking curfew which have now reportedly killed more people in the country than the coronavirus.
Protests in Israel and Other Countries Open Back Up
Already, protests have broken out in Israel against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Over the weekend, more than 2,000 demonstrators took to the streets of Tel Aviv where they stood six feet apart.
The demonstrators accused Netanyahu of using the crisis to escape prosecution over corruption charges and form an emergency government with his rival, Benny Gantz.
Some reportedly held up black flags that have been featured at other recent Israeli protests, and which reportedly symbolize Netanyahu’s attacks on democratic institutions.
Earlier this year, Netanyahu was indicted on charges of fraud, breach of justice, and accepting bribes.
On Monday, Netanyahu and Gantz announced that they had formed an emergency government. Under their agreement, Netanyahu will serve as Prime Minister until October 2021, then Gantz will take over.
The move further solidifies Netanyahu’s power after more than a year of political stalemate and three separate elections.
Meanwhile, a number of other countries have started to open back up again. On Monday, Germany, Denmark, the Czech Republic, and Norway all lifted some restrictions.
Outside of Europe, South Korea has also eased social-distancing rules. Australia and New Zealand have also said they are going to roll back some restrictions soon, despite the fact that New Zealand also said it is extending its lockdown for five more days.
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (Al Jazeera) (ABC News)
95-Year-Old Woman Dies After Police Tases Her in Nursing Home
The officer involved was suspended with pay and charged with assault.
A 95-year-old Australian woman whom police tasered in a nursing home last week has reportedly died from her injuries.
Clare Nowland, who had dementia and required a walking frame to stand up and move, was living at the Yallambee Lodge in Cooma in southeastern Australia.
At about 4:15 a.m. on May 17, police and paramedics responded to a report of a woman standing outside her room with a steak knife.
They encountered Nowland, then reportedly tried to negotiate with her for several minutes, but she didn’t drop the knife.
The five-foot-two, 95-pound woman walked toward the two officers “at a slow pace,” police said at a news conference, so one of them tasered her.
She fell to the floor and reportedly suffered a fractured skull and a severe brain bleed, causing her to be hospitalized in critical condition.
Nowland passed away in a hospital surrounded by her family, the New South Wales police confirmed in a statement today.
After a week-long investigation, the police force also said that the senior constable involved would appear in court next week to face charges of recklessly causing grievous bodily harm, assault occasioning actual bodily harm, and common assault.
NSW police procedure states that tasers should not be used against elderly or disabled people absent exceptional circumstances.
Following the incident, community members, activists, and disability rights advocates expressed bewilderment and anger at what they called an unnecessary use of force, and some are now questioning why law enforcement took so long to prosecute the officer involved.
See what others are saying: (Reuters) (The New York Times) (CNN)
U.K. Police Face Backlash After Arresting Anti-Monarchy Protesters
London Mayor Sadiq Khan said that some of the arrests “raise questions” and “investigations are ongoing.”
The Public Order Act
A controversial protest crackdown law in the U.K. is facing criticism after dozens of anti-monarchy protesters were arrested during the coronation ceremony in London over the weekend.
The law, dubbed the “Public Order Act” was passed roughly a week ahead of the coronation for King Charles III. It gives police more power to restrict protesters and limits the tactics protesters can use in public spaces. It was condemned by human rights groups upon its passing, and is facing a new round of heat after 52 people were arrested over coronation protests on Saturday.
In a statement, the Metropolitan Police said protesters were arrested for public order offenses, breach of the peace and conspiracy to cause a public nuisance. The group said it gave advance warning that its “tolerance for any disruption, whether through protest or otherwise, will be low and that we would deal robustly with anyone intent on undermining the celebration.”
It is currently unclear how many of those arrested were detained specifically for violating the Public Order Act, however, some of those arrested believe the new law was used against them.
“Make no mistake. There is no longer a right to peaceful protest in the UK,” Graham Smith, the CEO of anti-monarchy group Republic tweeted after getting arrested. “I have been told many times the monarch is there to defend our freedoms. Now our freedoms are under attack in his name.”
An Attempt to “Diminish” Protests
During a BBC Radio interview, Smith also said he believes the dozens of arrests were premeditated.
“There was nothing that we did do that could possibly justify even being detained and arrested and held,” Smith claimed.
“The whole thing was a deliberate attempt to disrupt and diminish our protest.”
Yasmine Ahmed, the U.K. Director of Human Rights Watch, also tweeted that the arrests were “disgraceful.”
“These are scenes you’d expect to see in Russia not the UK,” she wrote.
When asked about the controversy, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak told reporters officers should do “what they think is best” in an apparent show of support for the Metropolitan Police.
For his part, London Mayor Sadiq Khan said he is looking into the matter.
“Some of the arrests made by police as part of the Coronation event raise questions and whilst investigations are ongoing, I’ve sought urgent clarity from Met leaders on the action taken,” Khan tweeted.
See what others are saying: (The Guardian) (CNN) (The Washington Post)
Foreign Nationals Make Mad Dash out of Sudan as Conflict Rages
The conflict’s death toll has surpassed 420, with nearly 4,000 people wounded.
As the 10-day-long power struggle between rival generals tore Sudan apart, foreign governments with citizens in the country scrambled to evacuate them over the weekend.
On Sunday, U.S. special forces landed in the capital Khartoum and carried out nearly 100 American diplomats along with their families and some foreign nationals on helicopters.
An estimated 16,000 Americans, however, remain in the country and U.S. officials said in a statement that a broader evacuation mission would be too dangerous.
Christopher Maier, the assistant secretary of defense for special operations and low-intensity warfare, said in a statement that the Pentagon may assist U.S. citizens find safe routes out of Sudan.
“[The Defense Department] is at present considering actions that may include use of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities to be able to observe routes and detect threats,” he said.
Germany and France also reportedly pulled around 700 people out of the country.
More countries followed with similar efforts, including the United Kingdom, Italy, Spain, the Netherlands, Canada, China, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, and Indonesia.
Yesterday, a convoy carrying some 700 United Nations, NGO, and embassy staff drove to Port Sudan, a popular extraction point now that the airport in Khartoum has closed due to fighting.
Reports of gunmen prowling the capital streets and robbing people trying to escape, as well as looters breaking into abandoned homes and shops, have persuaded most residents to stay indoors.
Heavy gunfire, airstrikes, and artillery shelling have terrorized the city despite several proposed ceasefires.
Over the weekend, the reported death toll topped 420, with nearly 4,000 people injured, though both numbers are likely to be undercounted.