Social Issues

German activists form human chain in anti-racist protest

By Clara Palma Hermann

Berlin, Jun 14 (efe-epa).- Thousands of activists formed a human chain in Berlin to protest against racism while maintaining social distancing measures during the coronavirus pandemic.

Several German cities were the scene of anti-racism protests on Sunday, an issue that has sparked a wide debate in the country.

In the German capital, a group called Unteilbar (Inseparables) attracted around 8,000 people, according to police estimates.

To minimize the risk of spreading Covid-19, protesters formed a nine-kilometer-long human chain from the Brandenburg Gate to the multicultural district of Neukölln.

Participants were scrupulous in wearing face masks and formed the chain by linking themselves with ribbon to avoid any direct contact.

Their actions were praised by the city’s police service after German authorities had urged demonstrators to exercise extreme caution.

Last weekend around 15,000 activists gathered in Alexanderplatz, a large square in central Berlin, without observing social distancing measures.

Anti-racist protests have spread around the world after the death of George Floyd, an African-American man who died in the United States after a white police officer knelt on his neck for eight minutes and 46 seconds.

There has been an increase in daily Covid-19 cases in Berlin in recent days with 87 new infections reported on Friday, the highest number since the end of April.

Although the German government has emphasized in recent weeks that the fight against racism is a priority objective, the question of whether racist incidents are individual acts or reflect a wider problem has polarized the country.

This was evidenced by a controversy unleashed after Saskia Esken, co-leader of the Social Democratic Party, complained of “latent racism” among German police.

Her statement was condemned by other politicians and in particular by representatives of the country’s security forces.

A government spokesman said last week that an investigation will be carried out into possible racist tendencies in the police, following recommendations by a European Council report that warned of signs of racial profiling.

An alleged example of this was an incident involving Berliner Vanessa Henke, footage of which has been widely shared on social media.

In one video, the young black woman tearfully recounts how a cashier at a drugstore accused her of paying with a foreign card, not believing that she could have a German name.

Henke says she called the police after half an hour of discussion but one of the officers accused her of lying, threatened to arrest her and questioned her understanding of German.

Both the drugstore chain and the Berlin police have said they are investigating the case.

There was an increase in the number of racist incidents reported in 2019, according to a report by Germany’s Federal Anti-Discrimination Agency.

The report also found a “persistent problem of racist discrimination” in the country. EFE-EPA

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