“No more masks!” was the slogan of the over 18,000 people who crowded the streets of Berlin on Saturday to protest the anti-Covid-19 containment measures imposed by the Merkel government.
The protest was organized by the Querdenken 711 (“Lateral Thinking”) movement, led by the entrepreneur and candidate for Stuttgart mayor Michael Ballweg, who said he wanted to take to the streets to defend “the fundamental and undeniable rights of the German Constitution.”
“Today is the end of the pandemic, the day of freedom!” shouted Ballweg from his megaphone again and again, amid the applause of the demonstrators.
Thousands of people gathered on the Unter den Linden boulevard in Berlin and then continued on to the Tiergarten park in the city center.
In addition to numerous No Vax activists, the march also welcomed among its ranks protesters belonging to AfD and other extreme right-wing organizations, such as the NPD (National Democratic Party of Germany) and the Identitär Bewegung (Identity Movement), who marched undisturbed through the city until the early hours of the afternoon.
Also present were slogans and flags connected to the conspiracy theorists of the QAnon movement, known for their convoluted theory of historical coincidences that sees Donald Trump as the greatest defender in the fight against the demonic world elites.
There was also an illustrious guest at the march: Robert Francis Kennedy Jr., nephew of the US President John F. Kennedy, who said he came to Berlin to make his contribution to what he calls the new “front against totalitarianism.”
Only a few hundred anti-fascist militants protested against the chants and slogans of the right-wing extremists.
Around 1 p.m., the police announced that they had to disband the demonstration due to the lack of respect for mandatory distancing: the city’s mayor, Michael Müller, has made hygiene measures and the maintenance of a minimum distance mandatory throughout the capital.
Many of the protesters refused to leave the march, and in several areas of the center there were small clashes with police, which led to the arrest of some participants.
The municipality of Berlin had initially banned the demonstration, but the organizers of the march filed an appeal before the administrative court, which at around 3 a.m. on Friday night gave the final green light to the protest. According to the court, the members of Querdenken 711 did not constitute “any danger to public safety,” and the march could be held “while respecting the distancing rules,” said the presiding judge in a note.
It was a defeat for the head of internal affairs of the municipality of Berlin, Andreas Geisel (SPD), who had strongly opposed the initiative. “The participants in the demonstration are the same people who protested in Berlin on Aug. 1. Many of them were without masks. … This time there are also many right-wing extremists, and we fear that there will be violent acts,” said Geisel in an interview with the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung on Aug. 27.
Over 3,000 police were deployed to keep an eye on the protest. In the afternoon, they also arrested Attila Hildmann, the well-known vegan cook of Turkish origin who takes Health Minister Jens Spahn (CDU) as his number one nemesis, accusing him of wanting to foster “a plot to abolish democracy in Germany through surveillance and the dirty, rotten compulsory vaccination paid by Bill Gates.”
According to police statements, around 7 p.m. “a part of the protesters abandoned the march, making it easier to maintain the minimum safe distances.”
Meanwhile, another 1,479 Covid infections were recorded across Germany on Saturday, according to estimates by the Robert Koch Institute epidemiological center, while the number of total infections was at 240,986. The trend remained stable compared to the average of the previous days, with a total of 8,023 new infections in the last week.