Thousands of protestors took to the streets of Berlin on Saturday to express their opposition to the measures put in place in Germany to contain the coronavirus or COVID-19 pandemic, claiming that the imposed curbs violated people's freedoms and rights.
The gathering, which the police estimated was around 15,000, included constitutional loyalists, libertarians, and critics of the science behind the policies to combat the pandemic. Also present were a small group of far-right members who marched carrying the imperial flag of Germany.
Demands for Return to Democracy
Protesters danced and sang 'We are free people!' to the tune of rock band Queen's 'We Will Rock You'. Others marched with placards saying 'We are making a noise because you are stealing our freedom!' and 'Do think! Don't wear a mask!'.
The protests followed a rallying call from Michael Ballweg, an entrepreneur and political outsider who has organized similar rallies in Stuttgart and is running to become mayor of the southwestern city. "Our demand is to return to democracy," said one protester who declined to give his name. "The mask that enslaves us must go." He, like most of the protesters, was not wearing a face mask.
Germany has been less severely hit than some other European countries, with more than 200,000 infected by COVID-19 and nearly 1,000 dying from it. After initial success in curbing infections, they are starting to rise again.
Allegations of Social and Economic Harm
Most people have respected measures that include wearing face masks in shops, while the government has just imposed mandatory tests for holidaymakers returning from high-risk areas. But a vocal minority is chafing against the restrictions, saying they are crushing diversity of thought and doing untold social and economic harm.
"Only a few scientists around the world who follow the government's lead are heard," said protester Peter Konz. Those who hold different views "are silenced, censored or discredited as defenders of conspiracy theories".
(With inputs from agencies)