Protesters continue to support Utrecht restaurant refusing to check Covid access passes
The municipality of Utrecht is no longer allowing people to demonstrate on the sidewalk in front of restaurant Waku Waku on the Vredenburg. In recent days, hundreds of supporters and protesters have gathered at the vegan restaurant which refused to check guests for their coronavirus access passes. This caused difficulty for surrounding businesses, including other hospitality businesses, and for traffic in the area. Demonstrations are allowed to continue, but only take at Jaarbeursplein.
The possibility of disorder is still of concern to the police, the Public Prosecution Service and the municipality. "The risk of disturbances to public order increases the longer the situation continues. The decision of the [city, police and prosecutors] has been communicated by letter to the entrepreneurs behind the relevant catering establishment and the other initiators of the demonstration," said Mayor Sharon Dijksma.
A number of protesters were also standing at the restaurant on Wednesday morning. On Tuesday, at least 300 protesters were posted in front of the restaurant to express their support for the owners of the establishment. The few demonstrators present on Wednesday said they have been there since Tuesday and will be relieved by other activists later.
The municipality closed the catering business because they will not check their guests' CoronaCheck app. The owners challenged this decision in court. That case is expected on Thursday. Spokesperson Jorn Luka of the restaurant says he is confident that the judge will rule in favor of the restaurant.
You'll never walk alone Waku Waku - Utrecht. pic.twitter.com/lv8Prdqe9k— GAP (#No vaccine passports) (@yapapadopoulos) September 28, 2021
A special crowdfunding campaign already raised approximately 225,000 euros. The restaurant wants to use that money to "secure its survival". There is also a debt that has built up over the past year, according to a spokesperson for the eatery. Luka said the vegan restaurant wants to continue with its mission "and that is a free hospitality sector for everyone".
Since the closure, the municipality, the mayor and entrepreneurs have received messages "with very hurtful and sometimes threatening content". Mayor Dijksma said it is clear when something crosses the line, and called on everyone to report the incident. "Everyone can let us know what they think about decisions. But we should never normalize threats and insults."
She emphasizes that she wants to give plenty of space to demonstrate, but she can no longer allow it along the the busy corridor in front of the restaurant. "In Utrecht we can differ. We give all the space to express this - in a respectful way."
On Tuesday, sympathizers crowded the sidewalk in front of the restaurant, even spilling out into the bus lane. Mayor Dijksma called in vain for them to go to the nearby Vredenburgplein, because there is more space there, but this call was ignored. Nearly everyone left by 11 p.m., without intervention by the police.
Sympathizers stood close together in a friendly atmosphere, chatted and sang "You'll Never Walk Alone". They indicted that they wanted to continue to support the entrepreneur in the coming period and did not want to stop the protest.
Although the restaurant was closed by order of the municipality and the lock of the front door had been replaced, it still opened a bit with a kind of "takeaway counter". This happened to loud applause from the supporters. From the doorway, the restaurant sold drinks as a sort of "symbolic" opening. "The turnover cannot be compensated with this, but it is a signal that the owners want to send out: that they will not succumb to this policy. We hope that people will continue to come here every day," said a spokesperson.
Prior to this "guerrilla opening", there was a conversation between the municipality and the entrepreneur. Dijksma then said that "the restaurant is and will remain closed".
She said, "That means that means that from now on no more guests will be served in the restaurant."
This is against their "moral compass", said the restaurant owners. "We are not participating in a new inhumane normal. We would rather be part of a possible tipping point." They enlisted the help of others in this, because they claim to be "financially stripped". That is why they launched the above mentioned crowdfunding campaign. "Our business, which we have worked so hard for and put so much love into, is slipping out of our hands. And for what? Because we don't want to discriminate. We are shocked."
The demonstration also had consequences for surrounding catering businesses. The adjacent restaurant Kloek, for example, did not open due to the situation on the street, the owner said. Kloek does check coronavirus access passes, and that resulted in "unpleasant" conversations and reactions from bystanders on Monday evening, when there were also sympathizers at Waku Waku.
Reporting by ANP.