BERLIN, Aug 1 – Thousands of demonstrators rallied in Berlin on Saturday to protest against measures imposed in Germany to stem the coronavirus pandemic, saying they violated people’s rights and freedoms.
The loose gathering, estimated by police at 15,000, included libertarians, constitutional loyalists and sceptics of the science behind policies to fight the pandemic. There was also a small far-right presence with some marchers carrying Germany’s imperial flag.
Protesters danced and sang “We are free people!” to the tune of rock band Queen’s “We Will Rock You”. Others marched with placards saying “We are making a noise because you are stealing our freedom!” and “Do think! Don’t wear a mask!”.
The protests followed a rallying call from Michael Ballweg, an entrepreneur and political outsider who has organised similar rallies in Stuttgart and is running to become mayor of the southwestern city.
“Our demand is to return to democracy,” said one protester who declined to give his name. “The mask that enslaves us must go.”
He, like most of the protesters, was not wearing a face mask.
Germany has been less severely hit than some other European countries, with more than 200,000 infected by COVID-19 and more than 9,000 dying from it. After initial success in curbing infections, they are starting to rise again.
Most people have respected measures that include wearing face masks in shops, while the government has just imposed mandatory tests for holidaymakers returning from high-risk areas.
But a vocal minority is chafing against the restrictions, saying they are crushing diversity of thought and doing untold social and economic harm.
“Only a few scientists around the world who follow the government’s lead are heard,” said protester Peter Konz. Those who hold different views “are silenced, censored or discredited as defenders of conspiracy theories”. (Reporting by Reuters TV, Writing by Douglas Busvine; Editing by Giles Elgood)