German riot police were attacked with bottles, fireworks and one was even bitten as more than 35,000 people took part in protests against the government’s coronavirus restrictions and plans to introduce vaccine mandates.
While most of the hundreds of protest marches in cities across the country on Monday evening were peaceful, there were attacks against police and journalists in the eastern states of Saxony, where 14 police were injured by protestors, and Saxony-Anhalt, where 40 people were arrested for throwing bottles and pyrotechnics at police in Magdeburg.
“One protestor tried to take a police officer’s revolver away from him and another protestor bit an officer,” a police spokesperson in the town of Lichtenstein said.
Most of the demonstrations took place – in what is becoming a weekly tradition on Monday evenings – without the necessary permits with participants calling them “silent marches” that were not formally organised.
Political and police leaders faced criticism on Tuesday for not doing more to put an end to the wild demonstrations.
“It’s wrong to accuse us of turning our backs to what’s going on,” said Thomas Strobl, the interior minister in the state of Baden-Württemberg. He added that there were 170 protests on Monday in his state alone and 2,500 police were on hand to maintain order.
“On the contrary, we’re keeping close track of what’s going in,” he told German TV station ARD on Tuesday. “It’s extremely difficult to police these kinds of demonstrations that aren’t registered in advance. The police can’t be everywhere but in general we are well prepared for this.”
Strobl said police would continue to closely monitor the protestors, who he said are an eclectic mix of “right-wing extremists, corona protestors, and conspiracy theorists”.
Even though about 71 per cent of Germans have been fully vaccinated, there is a sizeable minority firmly opposed to the inoculations despite ever-tightening restrictions against the unvaccinated.
The German government is planning to allow parliament to vote on a vaccination mandate next month.
Many of the protests are spirited low-key events with hundreds of local residents in towns across Germany walking a few miles together along downtown streets or sidewalks. But others in some of the anti-vaccine hotspots quickly turned violent.
In Magdeburg, a protest with 2,500 people turned violent when police tried to encircle a group of about 300 believed to have thrown bottles at officers. Some in the group tried to violently break through the police lines.
The violence in Germany has been matched elsewhere in Europe.
In France, dozens of politicians have faced death threats following the government’s plans to require people to show proof of vaccination to go to a restaurant, cinema or take the train. Last week the garage of one lawmaker in France was set on fire by suspected anti-vaccination protestors.
Violence also flared in Amsterdam when riot police broke up a crowd of several thousand demonstrators on Sunday that had gathered to protest against government lockdown measures and vaccinations.
Join our commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies