Bern saw a protest a day in 2021, causing millions of francs worth of damage
In 2021, Bern experienced more than one protest every single day. The issues raised by protesters covered everything from COVID-19 regulations to climate change, but little do the protesters realise that the costs for the Swiss city - and ultimately the taxpayer - will be enormous.
Protests in Bern cost seven million Swiss francs
During the last year, the city of Bern saw 382 protests requiring a police presence, totalling more than one protest a day throughout the whole of 2021. This cost the local government seven million Swiss francs in damages and police costs, according to the Directorate for Safety, Environment and Energy.
In an interview with Swiss newspaper 20 minuten, Bern Security Director Reto Nause revealed that some of the largest costs came from having to pay the police for special operations to tackle the protests, as opposed to business-as-usual police work, and the number of unauthorised demonstrations.
In the case of unauthorised demonstrations, the costs are much more financially burdensome for the city, since a lot of police are required to attend rallies at short notice or on overtime to keep the city safe. This was even more important on several occasions when counter-protesters turned up at unauthorised anti-vaccination protests and clashes between the two groups occurred.
Police in Switzerland had to work irregular hours
Aside from the fact that the protests put a huge strain on the city’s finances, they also affected police officers as individuals. Many officers were called into work at short notice or had their regular hours extended by unauthorised demonstrations continuing over several days.
“The problem is that the coronavirus demos, in particular, were almost all unapproved," said Director Nause. "This unpredictability is reflected in the police hours. An additional factor that increases the stakes is counter-demonstrations. Then the police must prevent the two rallies from colliding, so the group of officers at the scene must be large.”
Nause did praise several approved demonstrations as positive examples for future protests. “A positive example was the large demo in the run-up to the COVID vote in autumn. We had a contact person from the authorities, the route was agreed in advance, the process was regulated,” Nause added.