Berlin, Aug 2: Despite the rising number of coronavirus cases in Germany, about 17,000 people took to the streets of Berlin rallying against social distancing rules imposed to curb the pandemic.
On Saturday, protesters marched from the landmark Brandenburg Gate through central Berlin before holding a rally on a wide boulevard, reports Xinhua news agency.
Police then broke up the rally, saying the organizers were unable to ensure that safety and health regulations were being observed.
It added that a criminal complaint against the organizers for failing to comply with the regulation was filed.
Many protesters did not wear masks and disregarded social distancing rules.
Some yelled at people who wore masks, telling them to remove it.
There were placards reading “Stop corona insanity”, while some protesters wore T-shirts with “Corona=fake news” printed on the front.
There were demonstrators waving flags of various German states, and some of the right-wing groups even carried the country’s black, white and red imperial flag.
“We are the second wave,” some protesters shouted, referring to the second wave of the coronavirus outbreak as scientists and the government have warned against.
The protest, declared as “Day of Freedom”, was supported by some neo-Nazi groups and conspiracy theorists, along with Germans who say they are fed up with the government’s restrictions to curb the pandemic.
Germany enforced a strict lockdown in mid-March and started to ease it from the end of April.
However, large public gatherings are still banned, and mask-wearing is compulsory in all shops and on public transport.
Taking to Twitter, Health Minister Jens Spahn criticized the people attending the protest for failing to follow health regulations, while underlining their right to protest.
“Yes, demonstrations should be allowed even amid the pandemic. But not like this,” Spahn tweeted, adding that social distancing, health and safety rules and wearing face masks serve to protect everyone.
Saskia Esken, co-leader of the ruling Social Democratic Party, wrote on Twitter that “thousands of #Covidiots are creating a second wave in Berlin, without distancing or masks”.
A total of 955 new infections have been confirmed in the past 24 hours in Germany, the highest in months, according to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), the German government agency and research institute responsible for disease control and prevention.
As of Sunday, the overall number of cases in Germany increased to 211,005, with 9,154 deaths.