The city of Stuttgart has reluctantly agreed to let a demonstration go ahead on Saturday, ordering that masks be worn on public transport and people stay apart, after dissent over the lockdown swept across Germany last weekend.
Five thousand protesters are set to hit the streets of the southwestern city to protest Covid-19 restrictions.
And that’s only one percent of the half a million who applied to take part in the rally against Covid-19 prevention measures.
The local government has permitted only a limited number of protestors, and also requires them to maintain social distancing. Anyone caught traveling on public transport without wearing a face mask faces a €300 fine.
Fines have been increased since last week’s demonstration, after Deputy Mayor Martin Schairer branded protesters “irresponsible” for not covering their faces while on buses and trains.
“We weighed up [allowing the protest] intensively,” Schairer said, “It was a balance between protection against infection and freedom of assembly.”
He added that the organizers of the demonstration will be held responsible for ensuring that numbers do not swell beyond the limit, and that all measures were observed, SWR reports. Five hundred stewards, all wearing personal protective equipment, will also be on hand to marshal the event.
Protests against the measures brought in by the federal and state governments have flared up across Germany, despite it having more relaxed restrictions than some other nations across Europe.
Last weekend, more than 130 arrests were made across the country. Police in Berlin collared 86 people after bottles were hurled at officers during a demonstration in Alexanderplatz. Another 45 were arrested outside the Reichstag building, following a separate incident.
Munich and Cologne also saw unrest last weekend, with police accusing the protesters of having a “disregard for the lives of others.”
Journalists covering protests have been attacked by some of the demonstrators, who believe they are spreading “panic”. In the latest incident, a 23-year-old man was arrested in Dortmund, after he attacked a TV crew.
Earlier this month, Chancellor Angela Merkel eased lockdown measures, allowing all shops to reopen, some pupils to return to schools and the return of Bundesliga soccer games if played behind closed doors. The relaxation has seen a rise in infection rates in the country, but protesters nonetheless want all measures repealed.
Header: A man holds a poster during the protest against Coronavirus restrictions in Stuttgart, Germany on May 9, 2020. © Getty Images/Agron Beqiri/NurPhoto