Scandant fort leur opposition aux masques et aux vaccins, des milliers de personnes se sont rassemblées samedi à Berlin pour protester contre les restrictions relatives aux coronavirus avant d'être dispersées par la police.La police a estimé le taux de participation à environ 20 000 - bien en deçà des 500 000 organisateurs annoncés alors qu'ils appelaient à une «journée de liberté» après des mois de restrictions virales.
Despite Germany’s comparatively low toll, authorities are concerned about the rise in infections in recent weeks and politicians have taken to social media to criticize the rally as irresponsible.
“We are the second wave,” shouted the crowd, a mix of left and right and conspiracy theorists as they converged on the Brandenburg Gate, demanding “resistance” and calling the pandemic “ the greatest conspiracy theory ”.
Few of the protesters wore masks or met the five-foot (1.5-meter) social distancing requirement, an AFP reporter reported, as police repeatedly called on them via megaphone to do so.
After several warnings, Berlin police ordered protesters to vacate the scene in the late afternoon.
Police tweeted that they had taken legal action against organizers for violating viral hygiene rules.
A handful of people staged a counter-demonstration. Calling themselves “grandmothers against the far right”, they launched insults against “Nazi” demonstrators.
The protest slogan “Freedom Day” echoes the title of a 1935 documentary by Nazi-era filmmaker Leni Riefenstahl about a party conference of Hitler’s German National Socialist Workers’ Party.
Several politicians have condemned the protest as Germany seeks to minimize transmission of a virus that left just over 9,000 dead on Saturday – a toll far lower than that of its neighbors.
Saskia Esken of the Social Democrats, a junior coalition partner in Angela Merkel’s government, called the protesters “Covidiots”.
In a tweet, Esken denounced, “No distancing, no mask. They not only endanger our health but also our success against the pandemic as well as economic recovery, education and society. Irresponsible! ”
Health Minister Jens Spahn agreed: “Yes, protests should also be possible in times of coronavirus, but not like this. Distance, hygiene rules, and masks serve to protect us all, so we treat each other with respect. ”
Jan Redmann, regional leader of Merkel’s Christian Democrats in eastern Brandenburg state, also targeted the marchers.
“Still a thousand new infections a day and in Berlin there are protests against anti-virus measures? We can no longer afford this dangerous nonsense, ”complained Redmann.
Home Secretary Horst Seehofer, who comes from Merkel’s traditional right-wing ally, the Christian Social Union, showed some understanding, however.
“Of course, there are always different opinions regarding violations of fundamental rights and restrictions on freedom – first of all, this is normal and, in my opinion, it is not the majority,” Seehofer told the Bavarian daily Passauer Neue Presse.
Saturday saw 955 new infections – a level the country had not seen since May 9, according to the Robert Koch Institute of Health.
But protesters insist the risk of catching the virus is greatly exaggerated.
“These are fear tactics. I do not see any danger with the virus, ”a maratrice, Iris Bitzenmeier told AFP.
“I don’t know any other sick people. I have known a lot of them in March – skiers, vacationers. Something was really brewing in February – but now there are no more sick, ”she insisted.
Another protester, Anna-Maria Wetzel, who came to the capital after attending similar rallies in Baden-Württemberg in the southwest, shared this view.
“People who don’t educate themselves – unlike us – remain ignorant and believe what the government tells them. They are caught in the fear that the government is putting our heads in our heads – and that fear weakens the immune system, ”she said. .