The protesters attempted to enter the building of the Bulgarian National Assembly. They pushed back the cordon around the structure set up by the National Police Service, but stopped at the front doors. Afterward, they called on members of parliament (MPs) to come outside and listen to their demands.
The Sofia demonstrators urged lawmakers to abandon a proposal to mandate health passes or "green certificates" for Bulgarians. The pass is issued to those vaccinated, recovered from COVID-19 or returned a negative COVID-19 test result – similar to the "green pass" used in Italy. Bulgarians must show this pass before they can enter restaurants, cafes, shopping malls and gyms.
The protesters also called for mask mandates to be dropped. Under current rules, Bulgarians have to wear masks in indoor settings and on public transport. The demonstrators said they intend to stay in front of the parliament building until their demands to abolish the health pass and mask mandate are met.
Kostadin Kostadinov, chairman of the nationalist party Revival, said: "The aim of the protest is to remove the restrictive measures, especially the unconstitutional green certificate." Some rally participants were waving the party's flags during the gathering. (Related: People around the world protest tyrannical COVID-19 lockdowns and vaccine mandates.)
Asparuh Mitov, a 39-year-old engineer who joined the protest, voiced his disapproval of the COVID-19 measures. He told Reuters: "I do not approve of the green certificates. I do not approve that the children are being stopped from attending classes. I do not see the logic of these things."
Bulgarian Prime Minister Kiril Petkov told a local TV station that he regretted being unable to meet with the protesters. However, he said he would meet with them when he finishes his quarantine period after being exposed to a COVID-19 case. Petkov and other senior officials went into self-isolation after a participant at a meeting they attended received a positive test result.
Bulgaria is the nation with the lowest COVID-19 vaccination rate among the 27 member countries of the European Union. Only a third of its population has been fully vaccinated against the disease caused by SARS-CoV-2. It reported a record number of COVID-19 infection – almost 7,000 – on Jan. 12, which scientists partly attributed to the B11529 omicron variant.
Meanwhile, the Netherlands – a fellow EU member – reported a higher vaccination rate. According to the Dutch government, 86.1 percent of citizens aged 18 years and older have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
Protesters frustrated with draconian COVID-19 restrictions in the Netherlands also took to the streets earlier in January 2022. They gathered at the Museumplein public square in Amsterdam, the Dutch capital, to express their grievances. However, officers from the Royal Marechaussee military police violently broke up the demonstration. (Related: Anti-vaccine protesters in Amsterdam brutalized by law enforcement, police dogs.)
Footage of the violent dispersal in Amsterdam circulated on social media. One video showed a police officer hitting a demonstrator until the latter fell to the ground.
Dutch MP Pepijn van Houwelingen posted pictures of a bus full of protesters planning to join the Jan. 2 Museumplein protest. However, he said the bus was pulled over by police officers, with one officer yelling at the bus driver to turn around.
"This is what a dictatorship looks like where fundamental rights are worth nothing. If you challenge the totalitarian regime and start demonstrating for freedom, suddenly everyone is arrested," van Houwelingen said.
Watch the video below of the Bulgarian protesters making their way to the National Assembly building.
Resist.news has more about protests against COVID-19 lockdowns and vaccine mandates worldwide.