Berlin protest over virus restrictions draws thousands

Elias Hubbard
August 1, 2020

Protesters danced and sang "We are free people!" to the tune of rock band Queen's "We Will Rock You".

Despite infections soaring once again in Germany and fears of a potential second wave, tens of thousands of protesters gathered in Berlin on Saturday to demonstrate against coronavirus restrictions.

Protests against anti-virus restrictions in Germany have long drawn a variety of attendees, including conspiracy theorists and right-wing populists.

Police put turnout at around 17,000 - well below the 500,000 organisers had announced as they urged a "day of freedom" against the coronavirus restrictions.

Berlin police tweeted they had launched legal proceedings action against organisers for not respecting virus hygiene rules.

A handful of people held a counter demonstration.

Germany has so far fared better than some of its European neighbours during the outbreak, with 210,000 confirmed cases and around 9,100 deaths attributed to COVID-19, according to a Johns Hopkins University tally.

The German government has been easing lockdown measures since late April but social distancing rules remain in place, as does a requirement to wear masks on public transit and in shops.

Police filed a complaint against the organiser for failing to ensure marchers wore masks and kept their distance.

Reacting to the protest march via Twitter, Saskia Esken, the co-chairwoman of the co-ruling Social Democratic party (SPD), lambasted the demonstrators calling them "Covid idiots for celebrating the second wave in Berlin" without observing the social distancing rules and wearing a face mask.

"They not only endanger our health, they endanger our successes against the pandemic and for the revitalization of the economy, education and society".

Jan Redmann, regional head of Merkel's Christian Democrats in the eastern state of Brandenburg, also took aim at the marchers.

"A thousand new infections a day still and in Berlin there are protests against anti-virus measures? We can no longer allow ourselves these unsafe absurdities", Redmann complained.

Despite Germany's comparatively low toll, authorities are concerned at a rise in infections over recent weeks.

Earlier this week Lothar Wieler, the president of the German Robert Koch Institute for Health Surveillance, expressed alarm at rising cases.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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