Police injured in Berlin protest against COVID-19 measures

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By Euronews  with AP, AFP
Thousands march along the 'Friedrichstrasse' during the demonstration against coronavirus measures in Berlin
Thousands march along the 'Friedrichstrasse' during the demonstration against coronavirus measures in Berlin   -  Copyright  Christoph Soeder/dpa via AP

Around 45 police officers were injured during several weekend protests in Berlin including a rally against coronavirus curbs, police said, as a smaller protest was underway on Sunday.

A total of 133 people were arrested on Saturday, which saw thousands march in a so-called "The end of the pandemic: freedom day" demo against coronavirus restrictions, police said.

The arrests were for offences including resisting police officers, breach of peace and the use of unconstitutional symbols. Police said three officers required hospital treatment.

Thousands of demonstrators, many not wearing masks or respecting social distancing rules, marched from the Brandenburg Gate on Saturday ahead of a rally on a wide boulevard that runs through the city’s Tiergarten park, which drew around 20,000 people.

Protesters held up placards promoting conspiracy theories such as “Corona, false alarm”, and there were chants of “we’re here and we’re loud, because we are being robbed of our freedom.”

Placards also read “we are being forced to wear a muzzle” and “natural defence instead of vaccination.”

Police declared the protest over as organisers again failed to get demonstrators to wear masks or keep their distance.

Police have launched legal proceedings against organisers for not respecting virus hygiene rules.

In a separate anti-fascist demonstration in the southern Neukoelln district on Saturday, protesters threw stones at police officers, let off fireworks and damaged two police vehicles and a local party office.

Several officers were injured while dispersing the crowd, including three who were treated in hospital after being hit in the face by shards of glass.

Other arrests were made at smaller unofficial protests.

Germany has so far fared better than some of its European neighbours during the outbreak, with 210,000 confirmed cases and around 9,100 deaths attributed to COVID-19, according to a Johns Hopkins University tally.

The country has been easing lockdown measures since late April but social-distancing rules remain in place, as does a requirement to wear masks on public transport and in shops.

Infection figures have crept up over the past few weeks and officials have warned against complacency.

Earlier this week Lothar Wieler, the president of the German Robert Koch Institute for Health Surveillance, expressed alarm at rising cases.

"The latest developments of COVID-19 cases are a source of great concern for me and for all of us at the RKI," he said.

Several politicians condemned the demonstration as Germany.

Saskia Esken of the Social Democrats, a junior coalition partner in Angela Merkel's government, blasted the demonstrators as "Covidiots".

In a tweet Esken said: "No distancing, no mask. They are not only putting at risk our health but also our success against the pandemic as well as economic recovery, education and society. Irresponsible!"

But Interior Minister Horst Seehofer, who hails from Merkel's traditional right ally the Christian Social Union, was more understanding.

"Of course there are always different opinions regarding infringements of basic rights and restrictions of freedom -- first, it's normal and, in my view, it's not the majority," Seehofer told Bavarian daily Passauer Neue Presse.