Arrests and scuffles follow vaccine inequality protest at AstraZeneca HQ

Vaccine inequality protest at AstraZeneca HQ

Police arrested two protesters at a peaceful demonstration outside AstraZeneca’s headquarters in Cambridge today, amid scuffles. Global Justice Now organised the action, and is calling for the pharmaceutical company to license its jab openly and share the vaccine with the World Health Organization.

During the action, which began at midday, two protesters scaled the building to unfurl a banner as several others chained themselves to the building. Police dislodged them forcefully. Protesters considered this to be a disproportionate response.

Heavy-handed policing

An eyewitness told Phoenix Media Co-op:

This action wasn’t one that was going to severely disrupt. It was symbolic. We had people climb on top of the entrance to unfurl a banner that read ‘we demand a people’s vaccine’, not a profit vaccine. Some chained themselves to two side entrances, as others staged a sit in. AstraZeneca and other companies must realise that these aren’t just words. We mean it when we say we want a people’s vaccine for the Global South.

The police – after saying it was OK, that they didn’t mind – then decided to forcefully arrest the two people that had climbed on top of the entrance. We peacefully linked arms around the two people being detained in order to prevent the police violently arresting them for no good reason. The police tore the people linking arms apart, shoving some to the floor, and then made arrests. They have been taken to the local police station (Parkside).

Phoenix Media Co-op approached the police for comment but had received no reply by the time of publication.

“End this pandemic as quickly as possible”

There were around 100 protesters from diverse organisations who spoke about global vaccine inequality. This comes as the virus rips through India and Latin America.

A speaker from Decolonise Sussex University said in an impassioned speech:

AstraZeneca is retaining 100% control over who can make the vaccine and how many vaccines should be made available. While we’re discussing where to go on holiday, or which pub to go to [to] watch the football, people across the world are dying in their thousands, the vaccine out of reach.

It’s time for AstraZeneca to put people before profits and health before wealth. Pascal Soriot [AstraZeneca CEO], do your humanitarian duty. AstraZeneca, join the Covid technology access pool. Share the vaccine and save lives.

A Global Justice Now spokesperson present at the rally, meanwhile, said:

We have two key demands: … that the government waive intellectual property in terms of Covid vaccines and treatments, and that pharmaceutical companies share their knowhow. We demand that AstraZeneca commit to sharing their technology so that every capable manufacturing body can start making these vaccines to ramp up production and end this pandemic as quickly as possible.

Main article image used with permission