Crowds in Berlin defy ban, protest coronavirus restrictions

Crowds in Berlin defy ban, protest coronavirus restrictions
BERLIN (AP) — Hundreds of people turned out in Berlin on Sunday to protest the German government’s anti-coronavirus measures despite a ban on the gatherings, leading to arrests and clashes with police.

Local authorities banned several different protests this weekend, including one from the Stuttgart-based Querdenker movement, which expected 22,500 attendees. But protesters defied the ban, gathering Sunday around the city.

Berlin’s police department, which deployed more than 2,000 officers, said as crowds grew, officers who sought to redirect protesters or disband larger groups were “harassed and attacked.”

“They tried to break through the police cordon and pull out our colleagues,“ it said, adding that police had to use irritants and batons.

The protests, including in Berlin’s Charlottenburg neighborhood and Tiergarten Park, led to multiple arrests, police said. As the crowds made their way toward the Brandenburg Gate, police warned via loudspeaker that they would use water cannons if protesters did not disperse.

Germany eased many coronavirus restrictions in May, allowing restaurants and bars to reopen. Still, many activities, such as dining indoors at restaurants or staying in a hotel, require proof that an individual is either fully vaccinated, has recovered from the virus or can show proof of a recent negative coronavirus test.

The Querdenker movement, the largest and most visible anti-lockdown movement in Germany, has at times drawn thousands to its demonstrations, uniting an eclectic mix of those opposed vaccinations on both the right and the left, coronavirus deniers, conspiracy theorists and right-wing extremists.

Earlier this year, Germany’s domestic intelligence service warned the movement was becoming increasingly radical and put some of its adherents under surveillance.

The protest Sunday follows other demonstrations against coronavirus restrictions around Europe. Thousands have turned out for the past three weekends in France to protest a vaccine health pass that people will need to enter stadiums or restaurants, at times clashing with French police. Another 80,000 people also protested in cities across Italy last weekend.
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