Police in Berlin deployed water cannons against thousands of mask-less demonstrators who took to the streets to protest new government measures that included lockdowns of citizens and businesses, as COVID-19 infections rise again.
Officers opened up with the cannons after the crowd reportedly ignored repeated warnings to don masks and mouth coverings. Police also announced they would take action to clear protesters from the streets and “detain violators.”
As the trucks sprayed the crowds, protesters shouted “shame, shame” and still refused to leave.
Afterward, reports noted that police in riot gear deployed and moved on the crowd, detaining some protesters as they went. Some demonstrators threw fireworks and flares at officers as helicopters kept watch overhead.
No, it's Berlin today.
Protests against the new
German Infection Protection Act pic.twitter.com/gLbcD4hQ43
— SecondOpinion 🙂 (@DaFeid) November 18, 2020
Reports said the crowd size was estimated at about 5,000, and most demonstrators massed at a city icon, the Brandenburg Gate after the government of Chancellor Angela Merkel banned rallies outside of parliament after police warned they could become violent.
Organizers of the protest accused Merkel’s government of attempting to set up a “dictatorship” with COVID lockdown measures that were made even more restrictive earlier this month as the virus continued to spread again.
Some demonstrators carried posters depicting some German political leaders including Merkel, decked out in prison clothing featuring the word “guilty.”
Others carried signs that read, “We want our lives back,” and “Put banks under surveillance, not citizens.”
Meanwhile, in chat rooms online, militant organizers compared the government’s lockdown measures to the Enabling Act of 1933, which empowered then-Nazi leader Adolph Hitler, with dictatorial powers.
But those comments drew an angry response from some German officials including Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, who lashed out at what he called “disgraceful comparisons.”
“Everyone, naturally, has the right to criticize the measures, our democracy thrives through the exchange of different opinions,” he wrote on Twitter, the Daily Mail reported.
“But whoever relativizes or trivializes the Holocaust has learned nothing from our history.”
The protests on Wednesday erupted as German parliamentarians began debate on legislation that will give Merkel’s government the lawful authority to issue social-distancing rules, require mask-wearing in public, and close shops and other venues, ostensibly to curb the virus’ spread.
The Daily Mail reported that most Germans support the new measures, though a “vocal minority has staged regular rallies arguing that the restrictions are unconstitutional.”
As such, the new measures are expected to quickly pass in both the lower and upper houses of parliament and will be signed shortly thereafter by Germany’s president, Frank Walter Steinmeier.
Wednesday’s protests against new lockdowns in Germany were not the first by citizens opposed to them.
In late August, hundreds of demonstrators tried storming the Reichstag building where the Bundestag, parliament’s lower house, was meeting during a rally against COVID rules, which Merkel blasted as “shameful.”
Interior Ministry officials said they were informed by security services a day before the protests, that demonstrators wanted to block access to both the Reichstag and Bundesrat buildings.
Security officials with the Bundestag warned ministers of parliament that “demonstrators from politically radical and even violent groups” were likely to take part in Wednesday’s protests, adding that “attacks” were possible.
Earlier this month, some 20,000 people took part in protests in the city of Leipzig, a demonstration that grew violent.
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