Police fire water cannon to disperse Berlin anti-shutdown protest

Demonstrator with umbrellas walk past an armoured police vehicle during a protest against measures imposed by the German government to limit the spread of the novel coronavirus, on November 18, 2020 near the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin. - German MPs are to pass new restrictions to keep the pandemic in check. Militant opponents of Germany's measures to halt the spread of coronavirus were barred from marching outside parliament over fears of violence. (Photo by Odd ANDERSEN / AFP)

MPs were set to grant state governments formal powers to limit social contact to help halt the spread of the virus, putting the shutdown measures on a firmer legal footing.

Police on Wednesday fired water cannon to disperse thousands of unmasked protesters who had massed in central Berlin to demonstrate against government measures to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

After repeated warnings for the crowd to put on their nose-and-mouth coverings went unheeded, police said they would take action to clear the protest and “detain violators”.

As water was sprayed on the crowd, protesters chanted “shame, shame”, refusing to leave the site.

Around 5,000 radical activists massed at the Brandenburg Gate, after the German government banned rallies outside parliament over police warnings the demonstration could turn violent.

Protest organisers accused the government of trying to establish a “dictatorship” with shutdown measures that were tightened this month to slow infection rates.

Demonstrators carried posters showing German political leaders including Chancellor Angela Merkel in prison garb and emblazoned with the word “guilty”.

In online chatrooms, militant activists compared the government measures to the Enabling Act of 1933 which gave Nazi leader Adolf Hitler’s government dictatorial powers.

The provocative comments drew outrage, with Foreign Minister Heiko Maas tweeting: “Those who make such disgraceful comparisons mock the victims of National Socialism and show they have learned nothing from history.”

MPs were set to grant state governments formal powers to limit social contact to help halt the spread of the virus, putting the shutdown measures on a firmer legal footing.

Several hundred aggressive demonstrators had already tried in late August to storm the Reichstag building where the Bundestag lower house meets during a rally against coronavirus rules, in a protest Merkel condemned as “shameful”.

The interior ministry said Tuesday it had been informed by security services that protesters intended to block access to the Reichstag and Bundesrat buildings, justifying the ban.

The Bundestag security force warned MPs that “demonstrators from politically radical and even violent groups” were expected to take part in Wednesday’s protests with “attacks” possible.

Earlier this month, more than 20,000 people joined a violent demonstration in the eastern city of Leipzig against curbs to control coronavirus infection.

Most participants refused a police order to disperse after ignoring requests to wear face coverings and keep a safe distance between participants.

Demonstrators attacked police and reporters, leading to 31 arrests. Political officials said that neo-Nazi supporters and extremist conspiracy theorists had helped incite the riots.

For more news your way, download The Citizen’s app for iOS and Android.




today in print

today in print