Peaceful protests in US are ‘more than legitimate’, says German Foreign Minister

Peaceful demonstrations in the United States against the "shocking" death of George Floyd during an arrest by police are "more than legitimate", Germany's Foreign Minister said Tuesday.

Peaceful protests in US are 'more than legitimate', says German Foreign Minister
Protesters in Berlin on Sunday at the "Say their names - vigil against police violence in the USA and worldwide." Photo: DPA

“The peaceful protests that we see in the US… are understandable and more than legitimate. I hope that these peaceful protests won't slide further into violence, but even more than that I hope that they will make a difference in the United States,” Heiko Maas told reporters.

Floyd died last week after a white policeman in Minneapolis kneeled on the handcuffed man's neck for several minutes. The incident has sparked days of violent protests across the United States.

With journalists coming under attack by law enforcers at the protests, Maas also stressed that reporters “must be able to carry out their task — that is reporting — without fearing for their security”.

“Democratic countries must apply the highest standards in protecting press freedom. In this context, all violence must not only be criticised by also prosecuted and clarified so that journalists can be effectively protected while carrying out their work.”

Among members of the press who have come under attack is a correspondent of German public broadcaster Deutsche Welle.

DW said for two nights in a row, Stefan Simons was “shot at by US police while reporting on #BlackLivesMatter protests in Minneapolis”.

“Relating to the cases such as that involving DW, we will get in touch with US authorities to find out the exact circumstances,” Maas said.

Protests around Germany

People across Germany, including footballers, have been protesting against racism and police brutality in the US over the past days.

After scoring in his team's win at Paderborn on Sunday, Borussia Dortmund's English winger Jadon Sancho lifted his shirt to reveal the message “Justice for George Floyd”.

READ ALSO: German footballers probed after calling for racial justice in US during protests

Throughout the weekend, there were a number of protests in Berlin, with one on Sunday through the neighbourhoods of Neukölln and Kreuzberg counting over 1,500 participants, the majority wearing face masks.

On Saturday, protesters had stood outside of the US embassy, baring signs reading “Justice for George Floyd” and “Stop killing us.”

Over the weekend, street artists painted a new mural for Floyd at Berlin's Mauerpark, showing Floyd and his now-famous last words of “I can't breathe” as he died at the hands of police violence.

As of Tuesday afternoon, #BlackLivesMatter was the most popular topic trending on Twitter in Germany, counting over 1.7 million posts.

Meanwhile, people have also been sharing ways of what can be done in Germany, including signing petitions and donating to George Floyd's family.

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Police arrest 59 at pro-Palestinian protest in Berlin

Police made 59 arrests while dozens of police officers were injured during violent clashes at a Pro-Palestinian demonstration in Berlin this weekend, police said on Sunday.

Police arrest 59 at pro-Palestinian protest in Berlin
Protesters take part in a demonstration in solidarity with the Palestinians called over the ongoing conflict with Israel on May 15, 2021 at Hermannplatz in Berlin. STEFANIE LOOS / AFP

Around 3,500 people had gathered in the German capital’s Neukölln district on Saturday afternoon in one of several rallies over the escalating conflict in the Middle East, according to police.

Protesters threw stones, bottles and fireworks as police tried to break up the demonstration, injuring 93 officers and prompting them to use pepper spray.

Several people were being investigated for shouting “anti-Israel slogans”, the police said.

Around 900 officers were deployed to several demonstrations during the day, with the others passing mainly peacefully.

Palestinian militants have launched more than 3,000 rockets into Israel over the past week, according to Israel’s army, which has launched hundreds of air strikes on Hamas and other Islamist groups in the crowded coastal enclave of Gaza.

The most intense hostilities in seven years were triggered by weekend unrest at Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa mosque compound, which is sacred to both Muslims and Jews.

Germany has seen several scattered demonstrations over the escalating conflict, with protesters shouting anti-Semitic slogans, burning Israeli flags and damaging the entrance to a synagogue with stones.

The Central Council of Jews in Germany on Sunday said it had received “a torrent of the most vile anti-Semitic insults” on social media.

READ ALSO: Germany’s Jews call for protection amid Israel-Palestinian clashes

Council president Josef Schuster urged the police to take a hard line against anti-Semitism and said recent events had been “reminiscent of the darkest times in German history”.

Interior Minister Horst Seehofer on Sunday said Germany would crack down hard on anyone found to be spreading “anti-Semitic hatred”.

“We will not tolerate Israeli flags burning on German soil and Jewish institutions being attacked,” he told the Bild am Sonntag newspaper.

READ ALSO: Germany slams ‘anti-Semitic’ demos and Hamas ‘terrorist attacks’
Speaking at an ecumenical church congress, President Frank-Walter Steinmeier also said “nothing can justify” threats to Jews in Germany or attacks on synagogues. 

Some six million Jews were murdered during the Holocaust under Adolf Hitler’s Nazi regime.

The Jewish community in Germany has been growing since reunification in 1990, notably with the arrival of many thousands of Jews from the former Soviet Union.

The arrival of refugees from Arab nations hostile to Israel, in 2015 and 2016, added to the prevailing anti-Semitism in some Muslim circles in Germany.