Thousands of Berliners form socially-distanced human chain against racism

Thousands demonstrated in Berlin against racism and for broader fairness, including sharing the coronavirus burden, as they stretched a human chain through the German capital Sunday while keeping safe distances.

Thousands of Berliners form socially-distanced human chain against racism
Protesters took part in the 9 kilometre long protest between Neukölln and the Brandenburg Gate. Photo: DPA

Hundreds also turned out in other cities like Leipzig and Hamburg, although some faced rainstorms in the tail-end of a weekend of harsh weather across Germany.

A spokesman for progressive movement Unteilbar (Indivisible) told AFP “more than 20,000 people” had participated in the event in Berlin, while police estimated around 8,000.

The route of the human chain — stretching from the world-famous Brandenburg Gate past the landmark Communist-era TV tower at Alexanderplatz and down into the ethnically diverse Neukölln district — had to be extended to accommodate the numbers.

Family minister Franziska Giffey (SPD) participated in the protest and waved at a girl passing by. Photo: DPA

“The coronavirus is worsening existing inequalities. Many people are threatened with being left behind. We will not allow that,” said Unteilbar spokesman Georg Wissmeier in a statement.

“Human rights, social justice and climate justice belong together indivisibly.”

Over 10,000 people gathered in Berlin under the banner of Black Lives Matter last weekend in response to the May 25th killing of African-American George Floyd in Minneapolis, and the slogan was also in evidence on banners and T-shirts Sunday.

But the organisers of the latest demonstration posted a broader set of aims on their website.

READ ALSO: Tens of thousands rally across Germany against racism and police brutality

Coal mines to migrant camps

Their demands include better working conditions and pay for all including migrants, affordable housing, upholding asylum rights, relaunching the economy along green lines and allowing workers more say in how companies are run.

“Who bears the costs of the global crisis, who will be stronger afterwards and who weaker — that's being decided now,” Unteilbar organisers wrote.

Different groups ran individual stretches of the human chain, ranging from political parties like the Greens and Left party to civil society organisations like “Grannies against the far right” and the Fridays for Future youth climate movement.

And appearances by musicians and campaigners along the demonstration route were broadcast by organisers in a live stream of the event.

Demonstrator with a 'Racism Kills' sign. Photo: DPA

Messages from the “Ende Gelaende” group that has staged sit-ins at open-cast coal mines and fossil power plants appeared alongside an appeal from an Afghan filmmaker who lived in Greece's overcrowded Moria refugee camp for six months.

“Everything is getting worse on the island” of Lesbos, where many people fleeing the Middle East via Turkey first reach European soil, Ahmad Ebrahimi told viewers.

“Please do anything you can” to help, he urged.

Virus fears

Ahead of Sunday's demonstration, some had warned that the gatherings could provoke new transmission of the coronavirus.

“People not maintaining distance, shouting and chanting when packed close together — those are ideal conditions” for infection, Social Democratic Party (SPD) MP and epidemiologist Karl Lauterbach told the Tagesspiegel newspaper.

On their website, Unteilbar organisers urged sticking to “a responsible form of protest in times of pandemic and crisis”, telling participants to remain three metres (yards) apart to minimise the risk of coronavirus transmission.

As the human chain got under way, stewards handed out strips of brightly coloured tape cut to the right length as a guide.

Participants' infection control precautions had been “exemplary”, a police spokesman told AFP, adding that people had kept their distance and worn facemasks.

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Germany approves €9 public transport ticket for summer

It's official - people in Germany will get cheap public transport for three months this summer after the €9 ticket was approved.

Germany approves €9 public transport ticket for summer

As part of a host of energy relief measures to cushion the cost of living crisis, the German government is offering cheap public transport for the months of June, July and August. 

Monthly tickets will be available at a price of €9 (or €27 for all three months) and they will allow people to use all buses, trains and trams in local and regional transport throughout the country.

So even if people buy the ticket in Munich, they will also be able to use local and regional buses, trains and trams elsewhere in Germany, whether it’s Hamburg or Cologne. 

READ ALSO: How to explore Germany by train with the €9 ticket

The ticket will not be valid, however, on long-distance transport such as ICE trains or Flixbus.

The offer was put together by the coalition government – made of the Social Democrats, the Greens and the FDP.

The Bundestag voted for the initiative on Thursday, agreeing to give federal states a subsidy of €2.5 billion to fund the project. 

And on Friday, the Bundesrat – the upper house of parliament that represents the states – gave the green light to the ticket, paving the way for it to begin on June 1st. 

States had wanted an extra €1.5 billion funding boost to deal with lost revenue, however it would have been hugely controversial if they had blocked it.

READ ALSO: German states threaten to block the €9 ticket in the Bundesrat

During a debate on Thursday, federal Transport Minister Volker Wissing (FDP) said the €9 project was “already a success”.

“All of Germany is talking about local public transport,” he said, adding that it is also being viewed with interest abroad. 

READ ALSO: ‘Fantastic’: Your verdict on Germany’s €9 ticket

The Left party (Die Linke) voted in favour of the €9 ticket, but leader Bernd Riexinger said he thought the plan didn’t go far enough. “Three months is simply too little,” he said.

The opposition, however, slammed the move. Christian Democrat Michael Donth called it an “expensive experiment”.

Rail operator Deutsche Bahn will offer the ticket for sale as early as Monday. Local public transport providers across the country are also preparing their ticket machines for the initiative. It will also be available in travel centres.

People with subscriptions to local transport will automatically benefit from the offer. 

In some regions, such as Stuttgart and Freiburg, the ticket is already available for purchase.

READ ALSO: How to get a hold of the €9 ticket in Berlin