Thousands flout health rules in Berlin protest against Covid restrictions

Berlin, Aug 29 (efe-epa).- Thousands of people gathered in Berlin on Saturday to protest against the German government’s coronavirus restrictions.

The protest went ahead after a court overturned a police ban on the demonstration, which is expected to be attended by over 20,000 Covid-19 skeptics from around the country.

The court said that certain conditions regarding social distancing must be met, and Berlin police chief Barbara Slowik warned that officers would act “swiftly” if hygiene rules are not followed.

Berlin police said on Twitter that after requesting “in vain” for demonstrators to observe social distancing or wear face masks, they were left with “no other option but to dissolve” the rally.

Images from the march showed thousands of demonstrators, the vast majority not wearing masks or social distancing, walking in a large crowd through downtown Berlin.

As well as signs protesting against the government, face masks, and other Covid-19 restrictions, several demonstrators carried Reich-era German national flags that are often used by right-wing extremists. Some isolated counter-demonstrators were also spotted, carrying signs reading “Keep calm and fight Nazis”.

Police have a heavy deployment of some 3,000 officers on the streets of the capital city to ward off any repeat of the scenes of Aug. 1, when some 30,000 people marched through the center of Berlin, the majority without wearing masks or observing social distancing regulations.

That march ended in clashes between protesters and the police, who moved to shut the protest down because the demonstrators were ignoring those rules.

The issue has generated heated debate in the country over the fundamental rights of freedom of demonstrations and assembly amid restrictions related to the coronavirus pandemic.

Andreas Geisel, Berlin’s regional interior senator, has criticised the protesters for flouting coronavirus protection guidelines, saying “the right to protest does not mean the right to break the law.”

Similar demonstrations have been held throughout the summer in Germany, sometimes attracting tens of thousands of people.

The rallies are called by groups made up of conspiracy theorists, anti-vaccination movements, the far-right and others who disagree with the restrictions on freedom of movement and assembly imposed since the pandemic started.

Saturday’s march is being held amid a resurgence of coronavirus cases in Germany.

The Robert Koch Institute, Germany’s disease control and prevention center, has reported over 1,500 new daily infections for several days.

More than 2,000 new infections were recorded on Aug. 22, the highest tally since April. EFE


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