Thousands have gathered at the iconic Brandenburg Gate, which is located in the heart of Berlin, near the country’s parliament building, the Bundestag. Protesters held signs reading “Wake Up,”“Free Speech,” and “For Enlightenment. Peace and Freedom.”
One person carried a banner with the words “Merkel must go, democracy must stay!” referring to Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Barricades were set up to prevent protesters from getting too close to the Bundestag. The police were filmed detaining several people.
Gleich zu Beginn heute etwas mehr Konsequenz: Hier setzt eine Polizistin die Maskenpflicht durch. Zuvor bat sie den Mann mehrfach, eine Maske aufzusetzen, oder ihr ein gültiges Attest zu zeigen. Er war nicht besonders kooperativ. #b1811 pic.twitter.com/h1erILfwWY
— Felix Huesmann (@felixhuesmann) November 18, 2020
Officers complained that some demonstrators were violating COVID-19 restrictions by not wearing masks, and warned that “the use of water cannon cannot be ruled out” if they had to disperse the crowd.
Water cannons were later deployed when protesters refused to leave.
BERLIN 18.11.2020 – ANTI-CORONA DEMO
Water cannons and tear gas against peaceful people for mask order violations. Brutal arrests of members of the opposition. pic.twitter.com/GOlqYKIYvp
— Trinity (@23_Trinity) November 18, 2020
Officials had previously rejected a dozen applications to rally outside the parliament building. In a letter to MPs obtained by the media, the police warned about possible “attacks” on the Bundestag. There were attempts to break into the building during a similar demonstration in August.
#BREAKING: Police are now using water cannons against demonstrators who demonstrating against #Merkel‘s government and its #Corona policy in #Berlin!#Protect2020 #b1811 #germany #Be1811 #b1711 #berlindemo #Demoberlin #Demo #Covid_19 #Covid #COVID19 #coronademo #coronavirus pic.twitter.com/o4CBxHtXgm
— Faruk Firat (@FarukFirat1987) November 18, 2020
Lawmakers are expected to pass a bill on Wednesday that would write a long list of concrete quarantine measures, such as mask-wearing and social distancing rules, into the country’s existing law on protection from infections.
The government argues that the change is necessary if there is to be a robust response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Critics say the bill was put forward in a rushed manner and would give the government too much power in regulating the lives of ordinary people.
Germany has been living under a month-long nationwide lockdown since November 2. People are being encouraged to stay home, restaurants and bars remain closed, and public meetings are limited to just two households of up to 10 people in total.
The tougher measures were introduced in response “to the growing coronavirus infection rate.”
Header: Demonstrators in front of the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin on Wednesday, November 18, 2020 protesting pandemic restrictions. MICHAEL SOHN / AP
Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Tuesday that 30 to 40% of Germans are at risk of contracting the coronavirus. “There are some areas I’m very concerned about,” she said, “including Berlin, where we don’t have control over coronavirus.”
German authorities had erected metal barriers to protect the Bundestag – Germany’s parliament – nearby parliamentary offices and Merkel’s office from Wednesday’s demonstrations. Protesters instead gathered near Brandenburg Gate and on surrounding streets and bridges.
They appeared to come from all walks of life, their political views ranging from far-left to far-right, and many were united in their belief that the coronavirus pandemic is a hoax.
According to the German tabloid Bild, a similar rally on Saturday featured an 11-year-old girl who spoke out against coronavirus restrictions, saying she was forced to celebrate her birthday with friends “in secret” and had to “be as quiet as Anne Frank” so that her neighbors wouldn’t denounce her, a reference to the Jewish teenager who hid with her family in an attic during the German occupation of the Netherlands in World War II and later died in a concentration camp.
Police responded on Twitter, saying the child’s comparison was “completely inappropriate and tasteless.”