BERLIN: A demonstrator holds up a poster comparing Adolf Hitler’s 1933 enabling act with a citizen protection law introduced by the government of German Chancellor Angela Merkel to limit the spread of coronavirus disease.—AFP
BERLIN: A demonstrator holds up a poster comparing Adolf Hitler’s 1933 enabling act with a citizen protection law introduced by the government of German Chancellor Angela Merkel to limit the spread of coronavirus disease.—AFP

BERLIN: German police on Wednesday fired water cannon to disperse thousands of unmasked protesters who had massed in central Berlin to demonstrate against government measures to curb the spread of coronavirus.

After repeated warnings for the crowd to put on face coverings went unheeded, police said they would take action to clear the protest and “detain violators”.

Around 5,000 activists massed at the Brandenburg Gate, after the German government banned rallies outside parliament because of fears of violence.

The demonstration mirrored similar protests seen across Europe against restrictions opponents see as a violation of their civil rights despite government warnings about the need to stop the spread of infections.

Organisers in Berlin accused the government of trying to establish a “dictatorship” with shutdown measures that were tightened this month to slow infection rates.

Demonstrators carried posters showing German political leaders including Chancellor Angela Merkel in prison garb and emblazoned with the word “guilty”.

Achim Ecker, a demonstrator in his 50s who travelled to Berlin from neighbouring Brandenburg state, said the government was exaggerating the dangers posed by the pandemic.

“We don’t need emergency measures,” he said. “I believe in our own immune systems.” In online chatrooms, activists have compared the government measures to the Enabling Act of 1933 which gave Nazi leader Adolf Hitler’s government dictatorial powers.

The comments drew outrage, with Foreign Minister Heiko Maas tweeting: “Those who make such disgraceful comparisons mock the victims of National Socialism and show they have learned nothing from history.”

Published in Dawn, November 19th, 2020