Switzerland. Zermatt: On Sunday, October 31, 2021, the Valais Cantonal Police, in collaboration with the Public Prosecutor’s Office, arrested three restaurant operators who did not comply with the order to close their establishment. The Walliserkanne restaurant in Zermatt refused to verify its guests’ Covid certificate, and the three operators have been arrested. The public prosecutor launched a criminal investigation against the operators.
Zermatt is one of the most popular mountain and ski resorts of the Swiss Alps with views of the Matterhorn peak. Much of the local economy is based on tourism, and up to one-third of the population is from outside Switzerland.
Since the entry into force and the subsequent extension of the Covid certificate obligations for restaurants, the Cantonal Police of Valais and the Zermatt Regional Police inspect all businesses, most of which comply with the restrictions. However, there are some that consistently ignore the Covid measures, including the Walliserkanne restaurant in Zermatt.
The operators of the restaurant are a family with two brothers that are alleged “the authors of conspirational and anti-vaccine videos” and “conspiracy talks.” Patrik Aufdenblatten and his brother Ivan also made an appearance on Kla.tv, a German internet portal that publishes conspiratorial and anti-vaccine comments.
After a few calls to order and unsuccessful attempts to establish a dialogue with the owners, on Friday morning (October 29, 2021), the Cantonal Government dictated that the Walliserkanne should close for two weeks for having violated the Covid obligations. At that point, the decision was made public on posters and the restaurant’s entrances were officially sealed. The restaurant reopened from the back entrance.
On Saturday morning, the Zermatt police brought in the concrete blocks to enforce the closure “so that potential customers know that the restaurant has been closed before deciding to enter and order.”
Officially sealed and with concrete blocks placed in front of the entrance, the family members who operate the restaurant continued to serve customers with the newly improvised conditions.
As the restaurant rapidly became a place for activists, a demonstration around 4 pm took place. That same evening reinforcement came from German-speaking Switzerland-based members of the Freiheitstrychler (the bell ringers) and the youth anti-measures movement Mass-Voll (the cup is full). Sympathizers wrote under the police announcements “Not worthy of the rule of law.”
The rally was authorized “in a spirit of de-escalation,” the president of the Municipality Romy Biner-Hauser told the media. Stève Léger, spokesperson for the cantonal police added that between 20 and 30 people took part “without committing any excesses or acts of violence.”
On Sunday morning (October 31, 2021), a large clientele awaited the reopening of the establishment. The police tried to speak to the two tenant brothers and around 10 am arrived to evacuate the terrace and the restaurant. Then proceeded to arrest the father, mother, and Ivan, one of the brothers.
By the testimonial of the owner of Hotel Zermama, Mario Julen for Block, the family did not resist the retention. Nevertheless, the woman was “beaten up,” one of the son’s shoulders was “dislocated,” and the father was hit in the neck.
“He was a free man, now he’s a political prisoner”
Activists of the Mass-Voll movement arrived in the village around 4 pm on Saturday, all of them without masks.
Nicolas Rimoldi, co-head of the Mass-Voll movement, gave a short interview for 20 Minutes during the demonstration against the closure as also seen here and here.
Rimoldi said that “Such measures have nothing to do with a rule of law and are simply a scandal,” adding that “It reminds me of rogue states.” On his Twitter, he has also published a picture he took next to Ivan with the words, “Yesterday Ivan was still a free man, today he is a political prisoner of the Corona regime.”
New evidence for activism
In the 15-minute video for Kla.tv, the Aufdenblatten invite citizens to follow the federal constitution as “the government is no longer following it.” They also claim that the police made only one verification of premice while the authorities said that “since mid-September, several checks have been carried out in Valais by the municipal police forces as well as by the cantonal police.”
Two controversial videos appeared on the site of News für die Schweiz (NAU) here and here. In the videos, it is seen that two of the operators invite the police to get out of their property rather peacefully. However, a man, most probably the son “Ivan,” is heard shouting from the balcony of the restaurant both that they are on private property and should leave and insults.
In addition to the plaque that says “We respect ALL people, even WITHOUT a certificate,” on social media appeared pictures of “recommendations for behavior” during police checks in the restaurant. The guests were asked to “stand firm,” demand the legal basis for the implementation of the certificate requirement, and “refuse to testify.”
Activism that hurts the reputation
Regular visitors and other citizens are not indifferent about the events and, trying to determine who is right and who is not, they have detected unusual activity on the restaurant’s profiles.
With some controversial feedback left by tourists on different opinion sites, suddenly the customer evaluation sites were flooded by 5-star opinions. People say that this is “how far right movements operate.”
A large police force was deployed for the occasion. While some find it an act of exaggeration, it is believed by many that the restaurant might have become the grounds of the far-right group #CoronaFreiZH, notably through the sons Ivan and Patrick Aufdenblatten.
“They ignored the decision”
In a press release, the Valais police regretted the turn of events and said that the tenants took the risk knowingly they may be withdrawn the operating license. Upon the arrest, the Prosecutor’s Office opened a criminal investigation in collaboration with the cantonal police.