Reported by Ben Blackburn

Hundreds of protesters marched through central Oxford yesterday to show their opposition to vaccine mandates and other coronavirus restrictions.

Protesters held signs calling for “No Vaccine Mandates” and “No Vaccine Passports” as they marched from Bonn Square to the Cowley Road Medical Practice, before returning to central Oxford. The protest was organised as part of the World Wide Demonstration, which describes itself as “an internationally syndicated community demonstration dedicated to emboldening citizens to push back against Coronavirus related Restrictions in their countries.”

The most common concern among the protesters was vaccine mandates, particularly for health workers, with many protesters saying that they were aiming to protect “bodily autonomy” and “freedom of choice”. Opposition to other coronavirus restrictions was also prominent. An attendee at the protest told The Oxford Blue that “people are fundamentally allowing their way of life, their freedom, their bodily autonomy to slip away” whilst another carried a Gadsden flag, often associated with opposition to state regulation.

Some protesters also displayed anti-vaccine sentiment, yelling that “this is genocide” and referring to vaccines as a “Tory medical experiment”. Throughout the march, a sound system played songs with lyrics that included the line “you can stick your poisoned vaccine up your arse”. TJ Constant, a protest attendee, said “this is a dangerous dangerous vaccine that people are not researching”. According to scientific research, both the Pfizer and Moderna produced vaccines are safe for use, with a very small risk of serious side effects. The same applies to the AstraZeneca produced vaccine.

Ben Emlyn-Jones, a speaker at the protest, said: “What we’re doing in Oxford is just one chapter of a huge story. Over 111 cities at the last count are having a demonstration against increasing internationalism and authoritarianism that is happening out there in the world today, especially connected to this pandemic lockdown. To me and many other people, the virus has essentially been used as a pretext to introduce a draconian state of emergency that shows no sign of ever ending… That is why we’re here to make our voices heard, to peacefully protest and lawfully object to what’s being done to us in this country.”

Reaction to the protest was mixed. A student who witnessed the protest told The Blue that he “didn’t see the point” but supported the right of the protesters to march. On Cowley Road, the protesters were met by beeping from passing cars.