BERLIN: A police officer escorts a woman to a police van after detaining her at a demonstration against Covid-19 restrictions, and; (right) thousands of people, most of them wearing masks, dance as they attend a rally called ‘Train of Love’, organised to support the measures aimed at controlling the 
spread of the disease. — AP
BERLIN: A police officer escorts a woman to a police van after detaining her at a demonstration against Covid-19 restrictions, and; (right) thousands of people, most of them wearing masks, dance as they attend a rally called ‘Train of Love’, organised to support the measures aimed at controlling the spread of the disease. — AP

BERLIN: Thousands turned out in Berlin on Saturday in protest against the government’s coronavirus measures, despite bans against several planned gatherings.

Police banned nine planned demonstrations for Saturday, including one from the Stuttgart-based Querdenker movement, the most visible anti-lockdown movement in Germany.

A court ruled in favour of allowing one protest, planned for 500 people, on Saturday and Sunday each.

More than 2,000 police officers were stationed around the city to respond to those who showed up despite the bans.

A counter-protest called the “Love Train”, complete with techno music, also drew a large crowd. Those demonstrators supported the government restrictions to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

The Saturday protests come amid debates in Germany about how and whether to impose restrictions for unvaccinated people, a question taking on more urgency as coronavirus case numbers rise.

Similar protests took place in Berlin in early August, which ended in clashes with police and hundreds of people detained.

Police tussled with protesters as thousands of people marched through the city on Saturday, chanting slogans and waving banners against Covid-19 restrictions.

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.

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.

Published in Dawn, August 29th, 2021

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