A massive protest Saturday in Berlin against Germany's coronavirus restrictions was shut down just hours after it began because the majority of attendees were not wearing face masks or socially distancing as is required. Berlin police estimate that 18,000 people were in attendance.
Berlin police tweeted that they had warned protesters several times to comply with the country's coronavirus restrictions. Berlin has mandated that people remain approximately 5 feet apart and that people wear a face mask in public areas and indoor facilities. Public events with more than 1,000 people will not be allowed until September 1.
Soon after the warning, police tweeted “unfortunately, we have no other option” than to disband the demonstration.
“We approached the leader of the demonstration and informed him that his meeting would be dissolved by the police,” they wrote. “All previous measures have not led to compliance with the requirements.”
Die Teilnehmenden der Demo, die von Unter d. Linden über Friedrichstr., Alex, Leipziger Pl. zum Brandenburger Tor laufen will, wurden mehrfach vergeblich aufgefordert, die Abstände einzuhalten. Daher wird nun von unserem Einsatzleiter das Tragen des MNS zur Auflage gemacht.#b2908
— Polizei Berlin Einsatz (@PolizeiBerlin_E) August 29, 2020
Although many protesters were peaceful, police said that several arrests were made on Saturday.
“A large group of people threw stones and bottles,” police said. “We arrested 2 people. Force was used in the form of simple physical violence and pepper spray.”
“We had to carry out numerous other arrests,” police later tweeted. “Among other things for throwing bottles, freeing prisoners and other criminal offenses. Among those arrested is an author of vegan cookbooks.”
A rally at Berlin's Republic Square was disbanded, particularly for violence, police said.
BERLIN, GERMANY – AUGUST 29: A man wearing a right-wing t-shirt and a couple wearing QAnon shirts face off against riot police on Unter den Linden avenue during protests against coronavirus-related restrictions and government policy on August 29, 2020 in Berlin, Germany. Tens of thousands of people from a wide spectrum, including coronavirus skeptics, conspiracy enthusiasts, hippies, right-wing extremists, religious conservatives and others converged on Berlin to attend the protests. City authorities had banned the protests, citing the flouting of social distancing by participants in a similar march that drew at least 17,000 people a few weeks ago, but a court overturned the ban.
/ Getty Images
More than 3,000 officers were deployed to help maintain the demonstration after anti-restriction and far-right supporters took to social media to call on people to arm themselves and take part in the protest.
The protest was organized and promoted by far-right groups and outlets, including the Islamophobic political party Alternative for Germany (AfD) and Compact Magazine, which was removed from Facebook and Instagram on Friday. Compact has called the demonstration a “freedom movement” and has described the coronavirus restrictions in the country as part of a “dictatorship.”
Protesters waves a flag featuring US President Donald Trump during a demonstration called by far-right and COVID-19 deniers to protest against restrictions related to the new coronavirus pandemic, on August 29, 2020 in Berlin. (Photo by John MACDOUGALL / AFP) (Photo by JOHN MACDOUGALL/AFP via Getty Images)
Photos of the protest, which was organized and promoted by far-right groups and outlets, show many attendees representing far-right conspiracy theory QAnon. Believers of the unfounded theory believe that President Trump is trying to expose a group of pedophile globalists and celebrities who are involved in sex trafficking have been covertly running the U.S. and influencing world issues. QAnon followers do not consider Trump, who has been heavily accused of sexual assault and rape, to be involved in this ring.
They also believe that many of the world's events and issues, including John F. Kennedy's assassination and ISIS, are tied back to the “deep-state” of celebrities.
A placard featuring German chancellor Angela Merkel as prisonner is seen during a demonstration called by far-right and COVID-19 deniers to protest against restrictions related to the new coronavirus pandemic, on August 29, 2020 in Berlin. (Photo by John MACDOUGALL / AFP) (Photo by JOHN MACDOUGALL/AFP via Getty Images)
Kennedy's nephew, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., who is adamantly anti-vaccine and has unfoundedly compared the number of children injured by vaccines as “a holocaust,” spoke at the protest.
BERLIN, GERMANY – AUGUST 29: Robert F. Kennedy Jr., nephew of former U.S. President John F. Kennedy, speaks to people from a wide spectrum, including coronavirus skeptics, conspiracy enthusiasts, right-wing extremists, religious conservatives, hippies and others gathered under the Victory Column in the city center to hear speeches during a protest against coronavirus-related restrictions and government policy on August 29, 2020 in Berlin, Germany. City authorities had banned the planned protest, citing the flouting of social distancing by participants in a similar march that drew at least 17,000 people a few weeks ago, but a court overturned the ban.
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Berlin's Assembly Authority had attempted to ban Saturday's protests based on what happened at an August 1 rally, when 20,000 people gathered without face masks or social distancing measures to protest coronavirus restrictions. The move infuriated far-right supporters.
More than 242,000 people in Germany have been diagnosed with the coronavirus since the pandemic began, according to Johns Hopkins, including more than 11,000 in Berlin.