Berlin protest: Thousands rally against coronavirus restrictions in German capital

Sceptics gathered closely together despite warnings over social distancing

Liam James
Saturday 29 August 2020 14:45
Comments
Protesters hold a banner marked with the symbol of the QAnon conspiracy during a mass rally against coronavirus restrictions in Berlin
Protesters hold a banner marked with the symbol of the QAnon conspiracy during a mass rally against coronavirus restrictions in Berlin

Thousands of people turned out to a rally in Berlin opposing the German government's coronavirus measures the day after a ban on the protest was overturned in court.

Police said they more than 3,000 officers would be on duty in the capital on Saturday as an estimated 18,000-strong group of virus sceptics gathered by the Brandenburg Gate.

Some protesters wore T-shirts and waved flags and banners marked with the emblem of the QAnon conspiracy theory, while others carried the flag of the German empire before the end of the First World War.

Signs depicting Angela Merkel as a prisoner and branding her "Schuldig", or guilty, were also popular with protesters. Signs of the same design were also mocked up for Olaf Scholz, the vice chancellor, Christian Drosten, a virus expert who has informed the government's pandemic response, Karl Lauterbach, a leading epidemiologist and politician, and even Bill Gates, who has been the subject of conspiracy theories partly on account of his large donations to vaccine research.

Local reports said officials put an end to the protest at around midday as participants were ignoring social distancing regulations despite repeated requests to comply.

Demonstrators hold signs depicting various government figures and virus experts as prisoners

Police announced that the demonstration was to be dissolved over loudspeaker after trying "repeatedly in vain" to enforce distancing, Berliner Zeitung reported.

The demonstration had initially been banned by police but was permitted after a court battle came down on the side of organisers. Berlin's mayor Michael Muller defended the ban, citing concerns that protesters did not plan to observe social distancing rules and would undoubtedly spread the virus at a time when cases have already been rising.

“The demonstrators go back, they take the local public transport home, they go to work, they go to their family. And everywhere in these contacts they endanger others again," said Mr Muller.

Coronavirus cases have risen in Germany throughout August, reaching daily infection rates not seen since April and leading the government to halt the lifting of restrictions.

Andreas Geisel, Germany's interior minister, faced calls to resign from the far-right AfD party after he expressed his support for the ban, which the party's Berlin chair said was an attempt to suppress freedom of expression.

After the ban was lifted Mr Geisel said: "The decision of [the court] has not changed anything about the pandemic situation. I therefore expect the people who demonstrate in Berlin to do everything to protect against infection."

Mr Geisel also expressed concern over the involvement of the far-right in the rally: "I am still very concerned about the Europe-wide mobilisation among right-wing extremists, which took place in advance, regardless of the discussion on the ban. I appeal to everyone to gather in Berlin without violence."

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

By clicking ‘Create my account’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in