As German officials warn of the surge in the number of infections, large crowds gathered in Berlin on Saturday to protest against coronavirus restrictions, including the requirement for a face mask. “The virus of freedom has reached Berlin,” said one of the organizers, Michael Ballweg.
Others chanted: “We are the second wave” as they passed through the German capital.
Police estimated that around 17,000 people passed through Berlin and 20,000 in total attended the climax of the event.
They said they couldn’t confirm the “sky-high number” of attendees launched on Twitter, in a likely reference to organizers claiming 1.3 million people attended the rally.
‘Our freedom is stolen’
DW’s Benjamin Alvarez reported the arrival of trucks carrying anti-mask slogans with drummers on board.
Some protesters carried a banner calling for the arrest of US billionaire Bill Gates, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, German Health Minister Jens Spahn and others.
Spahn commented on the event, saying that “Yes, protests must be possible in the era of the crown as well, but not like that. ”
“The distance, the rules of hygiene and the daily masks serve to protect us all,” he wrote on Twitter.
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. ”
Hours after the protest began, however, plans to continue along a wide boulevard through the park were put on hold after a police complaint.
Berlin police said they had taken legal action against the organizer for “non-compliance with hygiene rules”.
The initial rally had only registered 1000 participants.
In the late afternoon, police used loudspeakers to order protesters to leave the area peacefully.
The officers also removed several organizers from the scene, to the screams and hoots of those attending the rally.
When the participants failed to move forward, the police told them they were committing crimes, which led to further yelling and booing. Some of the participants had to be taken away by the police after refusing to leave the scene.