Protesters clashed with police in Berlin on Saturday as thousands of anti-vaxxers and Covid conspiracy theorists flooded the streets in the latest illegal demonstrations.
Police had banned nine planned demonstrations for Saturday, including one from the Stuttgart-based Querdenker movement, the most visible anti-lockdown movement in Germany.
Some demonstrators tried to get past barricades to the government district around the Reichstag parliament building and clashed with officers, police said. Four officers were injured, the Berliner Zeitung reported.
About 50 people were detained, some for assaulting officers, the force said.
The protesters, few of whom wore masks, waved banners marked with the messages ‘I have my own opinion’ and ‘Covid-84’ in a reference to George Orwell’s book ‘1984’ about a totalitarian state.
Pictured: Riot Police officers arrest a protester during unauthorized protest against anti-coronavirus measures in Berlin, Germany, 28 August 2021
The Querdenker movement has united a disparate mix of those opposing vaccinations, coronavirus deniers and right-wing extremists.
A court ruled in favour of allowing one event, planned for 500 people, on Saturday and Sunday.
Still, like the last round of protests in early August, thousands ignored the bans and turned out to voice their opposition to government measures.
With chants of ‘We are the people!’ the protesters made their way through Berlin’s Prenzlauer Berg and Mitte neighborhoods.
More than 2,000 police officers were stationed around the city to respond to those who showed up despite the bans.
At one protest Saturday evening in Mitte, German media reported that police used pepper spray to disperse a crowd unwilling to leave once the protest had ended.
Pictured: A protester argues with Riot Police officers during unauthorized protest against anti-coronavirus measures in Berlin, Germany, 28 August 2021
Unannounced rallies against anti-coronavirus measures, among them a protest by ‘Querdenken 711’ – a protest group consisting of anti-vaxxers, conspiracy theory supporters and far-right groups, were held despite a Berlin police ban of all protests due to violations of hygiene regulations
Riot Police officers on guard in Berlin during unauthorised protest against anti-coronavirus measures in Berlin, Germany, 28 August 2021
The crowd eventually thinned as it began to rain.
Meanwhile, a counter-protest complete with techno music drew a crowd of several thousand as well.
Those demonstrators back government restrictions to slow the spread of virus and oppose the Querdenker movement, stressing Berlin’s diversity and advocating for more social cohesion.
Berlin police said they dispersed the counter-protesters when the crowd became too big to allow for social distancing.
The Saturday protests came amid a debate in Germany about whether to impose restrictions on unvaccinated people, a question taking on more urgency as daily infections rise.
The country has reported more than 3.9 million coronavirus cases and is facing a fourth wave of infections. It reported 10,303 new cases and 22 fatalities on Saturday, bringing the death toll to 92,096.
Pictured: A group of Riot police stand in the middle of a protest against anti-coronavirus measures in Berlin, Germany, 28 August 2021
Riot Police officers arrest a protester during unauthorised protest against anti-coronavirus measures in Berlin, Germany, 28 August 2021
Similar protests took place in Berlin in early August, which ended in clashes with police and hundreds of people detained.
The marches came a month before a federal election. The leading candidates vying to replace Chancellor Angela Merkel have pledged there will be no return to the strict lockdowns of last year and earlier this year.
To nudge more people to get vaccinated, the government has said it will stop offering free tests from Oct. 11, except for those for whom vaccination is not recommended, such as children and pregnant women.
The government will require people to be vaccinated, test negative or have a recovery certificate to enter indoor restaurants, participate in religious ceremonies or do indoor sport.