Police officers in Berlin broke up a large rally against restrictions imposed to contain the novel coronavirus on Saturday, held despite Germany’s rising infection numbers. The organizers of the rally were unable to ensure safety regulations were being followed, a police spokesman told DPA. The police said some 17,000 people had taken part in an initial march through the city center, ending at the city’s landmark Brandenburg Gate. The organizers of the events said 1.3 million people had attended.
The police tweeted that a criminal complaint has been filed against the organizers for failing to comply with the regulations. Few of the attendees wore masks or observed social distancing guidelines, police said. “Protestors marching through the city called for “freedom” and “resistance,” shouting, “The biggest conspiracy theory is the coronavirus pandemic. In Stuttgart, the same group has repeatedly demonstrated against the restrictions imposed by the German government to contain the coronavirus and in support of the protection of fundamental rights.
People nationwide were mobilized for the Berlin rally, Berlin Senator Andreas Geisel told RBB radio on Friday evening, noting that neo-Nazi organizations had also called for participation. Lawmakers across the political landscape responded to Saturday’s events with anger and dismay. Germany’s Health Minister Jens Spahn criticized people attending the rally for failing to follow health regulations, while underlining their right to protest. Yes, demonstrations should be allowed even amid the pandemic.
Saskia Esken, co-chair of the center-left Social Democrats, had stronger words. “Thousands of #Covidiots are creating a second wave in Berlin, without distancing or masks,” she tweeted. “”They are not only endangering our health, but also our success against the pandemic and for the revival of the economy, education and society. Further events are planned during the weekend.
These rallies come despite rising infection numbers, with 955 new cases recorded in the past 24 hours, according to the Robert Koch Institute, the country’s disease control center, on Saturday. In total, at least 209,653 people in Germany have been infected with the virus since the outbreak first occurred.