German police have fired water cannons to disperse thousands of unmasked protesters who had gathered 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’ and refused to leave the site.
Police in riot gear moved through the crowd carrying away some participants. Some demonstrators threw fireworks and flares in response as police helicopters hovered overhead.
Around 5,000 radical protesters massed at Berlin’s iconic Brandenburg Gate, after the German government banned rallies outside parliament over police warnings the demonstration could turn violent.
German police use water cannons to disperse a thousands-strong anti-lockdown protest in Berlin on Wednesday after demonstrators refuse to wear masks or practise social distancing
A protester holds a crucifix at riot police standing behind a barrier during a mass demonstration in Berlin on Monday over coronavirus restrictions
Some 5,000 people in Berlin reportedly attended the Wednesday rally, which German police broke up using water cannon
Police scuffle with a protester while another watches on holding a sign saying: ‘The basic law is dead’ during a rally against new coronavirus restrictions
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’.
Other placards read: ‘We want our lives back’ and ‘Put banks under surveillance, not citizens.’
One demonstrator held a flag with a picture of outgoing US President Donald Trump and an image invoking the right-wing conspiracy group QAnon.
A protester stands in front of Berlin’s iconic Brandenburg Gate wearing a mask of German Chancellor Angela Merkel and a sign saying: ‘Democracy OUT, Fascism IN’
‘No to lockdown, yes to lock them up’: Demonstrators rally against new coronavirus measures in Berlin on Wednesday as government debated a bill that would make some restrictions enforceable by law
Placards showing Merkel, scientific experts and other politicians dressed as criminals and marked ‘GUILTY’ are carried aloft by anti-lockdown protesters in Berlin on Wednesday. Some have argued that proposed legal changes around coronavirus restrictions are unconstitutional
The German interior ministry said on Tuesday that it had been informed by security services that protesters intended to block access to the Reichstag (pictured) and Bundesrat buildings
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, AFP news agency reported.
The provocative comments drew outrage, with Foreign Minister Heiko Maas tweeting in response to the ‘disgraceful comparisons’: ‘Everyone, naturally, has the right to criticise the measures, our democracy thrives through the exchange of different opinions.
‘But whoever relativises or trivialises the Holocaust has learned nothing from our history.’
A woman signs the national anthem in front of Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate during a protest against coronavirus measures on Wednesday
Hansjoerg Mueller, an MP for the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party addresses protesters during a mass demonstration on Wednesday
Demonstrators gather on a bridge close to the Reichstag to voice their displeasure with a bill that would give legal backing to coronavirus restrictions
Demonstrators congregate outside the Reichstag during protests over modifications to a law on coronavirus restrictions on Wednesday
A man carrying a toy gun and wearing plastic bullets is pictured on a T300 tank, part of the Russian memorial in Berlin, during a protest in the city on Wednesday
Wednesday’s protests came as German lawmakers opened debate on a bill that will provide the legal underpinning for the government to issue social distancing rules, require masks in public and close stores and other venues to slow the spread of the virus.
While such measures are supported by most people in Germany, a vocal minority has staged regular rallies around the country arguing that the restrictions are unconstitutional.
The measures are expected to pass both the lower and then upper house of parliament and be quickly signed by Germany’s president.
Members of the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party display signs as German Health Minister Jens Spahn delivers a speech during on coronavirus restrictions a session at the Bundestag on Monday
German Chancellor Angela Merkel is pictured during a session in the Bundestag to vote on measures to curb the spread of coronavirus on Monday as protests against restrictions raged in Berlin
Germany recorded 14,419 new infections from coronavirus on Tuesday, adding to the country’s total of around 844,000 cases
The country recorded 267 new deaths from the virus on Tuesday. At least 13,138 people in Germany have died from COVID-19
The demonstration was not the first aggressive action by anti-lockdown protesters in Germany.
In late August, several hundred aggressive demonstrators had already tried 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 on Tuesday that 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.
Huge crowds were seen at Wednesday’s demonstration despite coronavirus measures being supported by the vast majority in Germany
A German police officer pins a protester to the side of a riot police van during a demonstration in Berlin on Wednesday
A small but vocal minority in Germany have hit out at measures intended to curb the spread of coronavirus, saying they are an infringement on people’s personal liberty
A protester shouts at police officers during a demonstration in Berlin on Wednesday. Many of those at the rally did not wear masks or other face coverings
A German riot police officer raises their hands while dispersing a thousands-strong crowd of protesters that had gathered in Berlin
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 maintain 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.
Germany, which has been praised for its handling of the first wave of the virus, has recently seen a sharp uptick in numbers of new infections and is now midway through a second partial lockdown meant to try and slow the spread.
Under current measures, socialising is limited to a maximum of 10 people from two households.
Cinemas, theatres, gyms, restaurants and bars are closed, but schools, shops and hairdressers remain open.
The country recorded 14,419 new infections on Tuesday, bringing the total to around 844,000, while 267 people were added to the 13,138 to have died from the virus.
Umbrellas and arms are raised as German riot police spray anti-lockdown protesters with water cannons in Berlin on Monday
Some online forums have gone as far as to liken Germany’s coronavirus restrictions to measures put in place by dictator Adolf Hitler. Foreign Minister Heiko Maas slammed the ‘disgraceful comparison’ on Twitter. Pictured: Protesters and riot police face off during a demonstration in Berlin on Wednesday
Fireworks and flares were thrown at riot police, who broke up crowds with water cannon after they refused to disperse
Riot police pin a man to the ground during an anti-lockdown protest in Berlin on Wednesday that drew thousands of people