BERLIN (AP) — Thousands of protesters against German coronavirus restrictions converged Saturday in Berlin for a demonstration proclaiming “the end of the pandemic” has arrived just as authorities voice increasing concern about an upturn in new infections.
A crowd of people whistling and cheering, and with few masks in sight, marched through downtown Berlin from the Brandenburg Gate ahead of a rally on a wide boulevard that runs through the city’s Tiergarten park.
Protesters held up home-made placards featuring slogans that included “Corona, false alarm,” “We are being forced to wear a muzzle,” “Natural defense instead of vaccination” and “End the corona panic — bring fundamental rights back.”
They chanted, “We’re here and we’re loud, because we are being robbed of our freedom.”
The demonstration, entitled “The end of the pandemic — freedom day,” was planned for weeks and drew people from various parts of Germany. Police used bullhorns to chide participants to keep to distancing rules and to wear masks.
Previous protests against anti-virus restrictions in Germany drew a variety of attendees, including conspiracy theorists and right-wing populists.
Germany’s management of the pandemic has been viewed as relatively successful. The country’s death toll — just over 9,150 out of more than 210,670 confirmed virus cases as of Saturday – is lower than in comparable nations.
The German government has been easing lockdown measures since late April but social-distancing rules remain in place, as does a requirement to wear masks on public transit and in shops.
Officials have warned against complacency as the number of new cases crept up in recent weeks. They pleaded with Germans this week to observe the distancing and mask rules and, amid concern about residents bringing home infections from summer trips abroad, introduced free tests for people entering the country.
Germany’s national disease control center registered 955 new cases on Friday, a high figure by recent standards that underlined the upward trend.