“Marcha pela Liberdade”, in English “March for Freedom”, was a movement that brought together, on 12 January, people protesting the new lockdown that they believe will be very harmful to the economy. Screams, whistles and words of revolt, were heard in Vilamoura during the protest against the new lockdown measures.
About 80 people from all over the Algarve were present, among them, owners and employees from various business sectors. Representatives from restaurants, real estate agencies and hairdressers took part, all joined by their shared fear of losing their jobs, not being able to pay wages and in some cases, the fear of their company closing completely.
The protest started at 2.30pm near McDonalds’ car park in Vilamoura, and was followed by a “go-slow” by cars, accompanied by the police, to Loulé, passing through Quarteira and Almancil. The go-slow involved only cars and all safety and social distancing measures were in place with a maximum of three occupants per car.
Placards held by the protesters read “We want toeat”, “We want to work”, “We want freedom”, which was the main theme of the demonstration, as people shouted that they want to work, and do not want to be forced to close their business.
Sara Santos, one of the founders of the movement, said: “At the origin of this protest is the indignation on closing a region like the Algarve, with so few cases. In terms of mortality we have a 0.02 mortality rate here in the Algarve, it doesn’t make sense to close with such a small rate. We really want to be free to work, to be free to go out to lunch, taking the necessary social distancing measures and using masks”.
António Diogo, Bruno Fraga, representatives of Associação dos Empresários por Quarteira said: “Entrepreneurs have had no support during the last lockdown, what help did arrive, arrived too late and companies that have managed to survive from the summer until now are now at risk of closing. During the first lockdown companies had losses between 60 percent and 90 percent”.
As an alternative to total lockdown the protestors “believe that we can have a lockdown but only in certain areas of the country where there is the highest risk of catching the virus or to businesses that may pose a risk to health or for certain age groups. What we are sure is that what is being done now has already been done previously, and it didn’t work then.”
Sónia, a food sector worker who was taking part in the protest, has been unemployed since October and she has no idea when she will finally start working. Also, she regrets that the demonstrations have not had more support from the citizens. “I think more of us should be protesting, I don’t know if it is because people are afraid, but we should be here in force to show our disapproval”.
In the protest we also found young people whojoined the movement to make their voices heard. This was the case of Sandro, who when he became aware of the demonstration, automatically wanted to join. “Diseases are a constant in life unfortunately, and many have no cure and this will be another one that will take years to find a cure”, he said.
As a 28-year-old man, Sandro also has an appeal to other young people: “We hope that we will have more young people joining us. Sometimes people only react when they feel they are being harmed, luckily I have been working and receiving my salary, but I can’t wait not to receive it to start worrying about it. Most people are simply sitting back on their sofas, we don’t solve any problems on social media, we solve problems in coming, talking and trying to reach someone who has decision-making powers”.