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Lockdown protestors set to defy Swiss demonstration bans

A recent protest in St Gallen turned ugly. Keystone

Swiss police are bracing themselves for renewed anti-lockdown demonstrations this weekend. This follows scenes of violence at a protest march in the eastern city of St Gallen a week ago.

This content was published on April 9, 2021 - 15:09
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Social media posts suggest that demonstrators are planning to gather again in St Gallen on Friday night and in Zurich and Winterthur over the course of the weekend.

St Gallen city security chief Fredy Fässler, who is also president of the Conference of Cantonal Justice and Police Directors, admitted that such an event could be difficult to contain. “Our police forces are not set up to control major events at multiple locations every weekend,” he told Swiss public broadcaster SRF.

On April 3, groups of protesters clashed with police in the city, during which a petrol bomb was thrown and police fired rubber bullets and tear gas.

Liestal

Last month, thousands of people peacefully protested in the northwest town of Liestal. This followed a government announcement that a gradual lifting of lockdown measures would be put on hold as infections rose.

While shops have been able to re-open from a lockdown imposed in January, restaurants, bars and nightclubs have been forced to stay shut.

Several Swiss regions have banned protest marches on the grounds of maintaining social order and enforcing lockdown restrictions on the number of people who can gather in one location.

Such a ban was challenged in the central canton of Uri, but a court has refused to hear the case in time for the planned event on Saturday. The cantonal authorities have warned that they may have to tighten lockdown measures further to contain a spike in the number of infections.

On Friday it was announced that 11 people aged between 15 and 24 will have to answer allegations of public order offences before a court, following an illegal party in canton Valais, in southwestern Switzerland. They were arrested on April 1 after police attempts to break up the gathering were resisted by revellers.

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