Berlin police arrest 300, disband protest against coronavirus curbs

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Berlin police broke up a mass protest against coronavirus curbs on Saturday and arrested 300 in the German capital after demonstrators failed to keep their distance and wear masks as instructed.

Around 38 000 protesters gathered for events across the city and police reported pockets of unrest, as infections rise in Europe and public frustration at measures to contain the virus grows. Similar events took place in Paris, London and elsewhere on Saturday.

“Unfortunately, we have no other option,” Berlin police said on Twitter, adding that those taking part had failed to comply with the safety conditions of the march.

At a demonstration close to Brandenburg Gate, several thousand were still gathered by early evening, some throwing rocks and bottles. Police arrested around 200 protesters, Berlin’s interior minister Andreas Geisel said, describing the group as “extremist”. Seven police were injured.

Nearby, a separate protest with around 30 000 was expected to carry on until 9 pm because demonstrators were respecting the social distancing rules, Geisel said.

Police said some 3000 officers had been deployed to control the crowds.

Police had been preparing for possible violence as activists urged social media followers across Europe to arm themselves and gather in Berlin.

Berlin initially banned the protests but a German regional court overnight gave the final go-ahead by overruling the earlier decision.

Until now Germany has managed the coronavirus crisis better than many of its European counterparts, with rigorous testing helping to hold down infections and deaths. There have been more than 9000 deaths so far.

But new daily infections have accelerated in recent weeks, as in much of the world.

On Friday, Chancellor Angela Merkel urged citizens to keep up their guard against the virus.

Source: sabcnews