Thousands gathered in Berlin this weekend to protest coronavirus restrictions, saying they are fed up with being forced to wear a mask in public and other government restrictions.
Reuters reported that organizers hoped more than 200,000 people would attend the rally on Sunday and be able to create a human chain around Lake Constance, but not enough attended. While thousands showed up to protest lingering restrictions, thousands more showed up to counter-protest, for a total of 10,500 to 11,000 demonstrators total.
The counter-demonstrators wanted to show support for government coronavirus restrictions and to protest reportedly right-wing protesters in the other group.
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Local authorities had imposed restrictions such as respecting social distancing to avoid further infections. They also banned the use of Germany’s imperial Reichsflagge, a symbol used by neo-Nazis and other far-right groups as an alternative to the forbidden swastika flag.
The marches have attracted a mixed crowd of civil rights activists and people who oppose vaccinations, as well as neo-Nazis and members of far-right groups including the opposition party Alternative for Germany (AfD).
During mass marches against coronavirus curbs in Berlin in late August, protesters stormed the steps of the Reichstag parliament building, some of them holding far-right Reichsflagge. The images went around the world and were condemned by leading German politicians.
Earlier this year, Germany enacted more stringent lockdown measures such as shutting down businesses, grounding flights, and stopping production lines, the BBC reported in June. The country didn’t suffer as much from the virus as other countries in Europe and began reopening in the summer, but not fast enough for some. In late July and early August, thousands began protesting the remaining lockdown measures, which included mandatory mask wearing and social distancing. About 20,000 people appeared at those protests.
Currently, Germany is at the beginning of a potential second wave, leading authorities to consider implementing more stringent restrictions again. The restrictions would further exasperate the country’s economy, which is slowly improving following what Reuters called “its worst recession on record in the first half of the year.” The recession was caused by the lockdowns.
Citizens of other European countries are also protesting against further coronavirus restrictions. In France, Michelin-starred chef Philippe Etchebest led a protest in Bordeaux against restaurant and other business closures. Euro News reported the chef said his business was “decimated” by the coronavirus lockdown earlier this year.
In late September, hundreds protested coronavirus restrictions in London, the outlet reported. Ten protesters were arrested at the event while four police officers were injured.
“I know there is great frustration to these regulations, but they have been designed to keep everyone safe from what is a lethal virus. By flagrantly gathering in large numbers and ignoring social distancing, you are putting your health and the health of your loved ones at risk,” said Met Police Commander Ade Adelekan.
The department said that protests didn’t have to follow rules against large gatherings, but later told Euro News that the protesters “have not complied with the conditions of their risk assessment and are putting people in danger of transmitting the virus,” and that the protest was no longer exempt from the gathering rule.