More than 130 people have been arrested for offenses such as resisting arrest, violating the peace and using unconstitutional symbols.
Saturday’s protests in the streets of the German capital came about despite a new spike in domestic affairs and warnings that Europe is hit by a second wave.
Police said they deployed 1,100 officers to monitor the rally and later disperse the crowd of up to 20,000, which was widely criticized for not wearing masks or observing social distancing.
The mayor of Berlin, Michael Müller, sharply criticized the protesters, saying they had ignored the facts and thus risked the health of others.
He added that there was no vaccine or effective treatment yet and the pandemic was not over.
The ‘Freedom Day’ protest brought together a mix of left and right supporters and conspiracy theorists, many of whom shouted ‘We are the second wave’ as they converged on the Brandenburg Gate.
Within hours, however, plans to continue the rally along a wide boulevard that crosses the city’s Tiergarten park were scrapped after a police complaint.
Berlin police said they had taken legal action against the organizer for “non-compliance with hygiene rules” and that the initial rally had only registered 1,000 participants.
Police then used loudspeakers to order protesters to leave the area peacefully and removed several organizers from the scene to shouts and boos from participants.
Several police officers were injured as the crowd dispersed, including three who were treated in hospital after being struck in the face by shards of glass.
Hundreds of protesters remained at the Brandenburg Gate late in the evening.
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Lawmaker Saskia Esken, one of the two leaders of the center-left SPD party, called the participants “covidots”.
“Thousands of covidiots are celebrating in Berlin as the ‘second wave’ without distancing, without masks,” she said. “They not only jeopardize our health, they also jeopardize our achievements against the pandemic and the revival of the economy, education and society. “
DW correspondent Leonie von Hammerstein noted that a retest had taken place, with many citizens angry with those who wanted to break the rules.
“The difference is that the counter-testers wear masks, keep the [correct] social distance. While the other protesters are not, they shouted “the pandemic never happened”.
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She then described being verbally abused by some protesters, including a man who yelled in her face.
“He believed in conspiracy theories. He believed Bill Gates was behind the coronavirus and wanted to forcefully vaccinate everyone and the German government is helping him do that, ”said von Hammerstein.
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Be tough on rule breakers
The protests came on the same day that German Economy Minister Peter Altmaier said he wanted tougher action against COVID-19 rule breakers.
“Anyone who deliberately endangers others should expect this to have serious consequences for them,” Altmaier said.
CSU leader Markus Söder has opposed further easing of restrictions as the number of new infections continues to rise. “We must expect the coronavirus to come back on us with force,” the Bavarian Prime Minister told the Sunday photo journal.
“Many people have unfortunately become more reckless in the face of the virus,” he said.
The number of infections in Germany has recently increased, with 955 new cases recorded on Saturday and 870 on Friday.
This surge has been attributed to greater socialization, summer travel and public neglect of social distancing rules, according to the Robert Koch Institute, the German government agency for disease control and prevention.
js, dj / mm (AFP, dpa)