An attempt to storm the German parliament during Saturday’s large protest in Berlin against Covid-19 restrictions has been condemned by politicians from all political backgrounds.
Protesters, many of whom had far-right sympathies, crossed a cordon and climbed the Reichstag steps before police dispersed them.
The Home Secretary said there should be “zero tolerance” for such behavior.
Some 38,000 people came to the larger and largely peaceful demonstration in Berlin.
What happened in the Reichstag?
Protesters carrying the flag of former Imperial Germany – used by the far-right Reichsbürger (citizens of the Reich) group – defeated a handful of police officers to run to the entrance to the building.
Police estimated the number at several hundred.
Scuffles broke out and the protesters were later defeated by police using pepper spray. Several people were arrested.
Police dismissed criticism of their small deployment, saying they couldn’t “be everywhere all the time.”
What was the reaction?
“The Reichstag is the domain of our parliament and the symbolic center of our democracy. It is unbearable that troublemakers and extremists abuse it for their own ends, ”said Minister of the Interior Horst Seehofer.
President Frank Walter Steinmeier condemned “an unbearable attack on the heart of our democracy”.
“Those who are irritated by our measures against coronaviruses or who doubt their necessity can do so openly, in demonstrations. But my tolerance ends when the protesters cling to the wagon of enemies of democracy and political mobilizers. ”
Vice-Chancellor Olaf Scholz, of the Social Democrats, was one of many to condemn the display of German far-right and imperial symbols.
What happened during the larger protest?
The protest was originally banned, but a court ultimately allowed it to continue on condition that coronavirus measures such as wearing a mask and social distancing were observed.
In all, 300 people were arrested at various locations, 200 after right-wing agitators threw stones and bottles near the Brandenburg Gate.
Police ordered the demonstration to disperse throughout the day because attendees did not follow coronavirus rules.
Protesters were crowded in places and sat together on the ground at one point.
Among those arrested was cookery author and conspiracy theorist Attila Hildmann, who spoke to the crowd via loudspeaker.
Although Germany has so far not seen the wave of cases affecting parts of Europe, its infection rate has increased. The number of new cases is reaching highs last seen in April.
Who organized the protests in Berlin?
The protest was organized by the Stuttgart-based Querdenken 711 (or Lateral Thinking 711) movement. The group has more than 16,000 followers on Facebook and communicates largely through the encrypted messaging service Telegram.
He believes that the coronavirus regulations violate the fundamental rights and freedoms enshrined in the German constitution and wants them lifted.
The protests also won the support of Robert F. Kennedy Jr. The anti-vaccination activist, also the son of assassinated U.S. Democratic presidential hopeful Robert F. Kennedy and nephew of assassinated U.S. President John F. Kennedy, was at the protest in Berlin.
Photos shared online also showed flags and slogans related to the QAnon conspiracy theory.
Participants also included families and children. Some people said they just wanted the right to protest.
Counter-demonstrations against the main march also took place, with around 100 people at a rally. “You are walking with the Nazis and the fascists,” some participants shouted, according to broadcaster RBB.
What are Germany’s Covid-19 measures?
The country has been one of the most effective countries in enforcing the response framework called prevent, detect, contain and treat.
It has been particularly effective in keeping the death rate in those over 70 lower.
He started loosening physical distancing in early April, but continued to track infections, which increased in August.
Chancellor Angela Merkel and the 16 federal states on Thursday introduced a minimum fine of € 50 (£ 45; $ 59) for not wearing a face mask on demand. The ban on major public events has also been extended until next year.
Germany has recorded 242,000 infections, fewer than other major European nations. Its figure of 9,297 deaths is considerably lower than that of Russia, the United Kingdom, Spain, France and Italy, according to research from Johns Hopkins University.