Germany warns coronavirus protests ‘hijaked’ by far-right

Germany warns coronavirus protests 'hijaked' by far-right
Police form a barrier at Saturday's demonstration in Berlin. Photo: DPA
Right-wing extremists are “completely hijacking” protests against coronavirus restrictions, the deputy head of the police union in Germany has warned.

“The Corona protest movement has lost its innocence since last weekend,” Jörg Radek, the GdP’s vice-chairman, told Funke Media Group newspapers on Tuesday.

“Nobody can say they are just a follower now. Anyone who stays with the movement must ask themselves whether they want to join forces with right-wing extremists and combine personal concerns in the coronavirus crisis with the extremists' anti-democratic goals,” he said.

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Around 18,000 people gathered at Berlin's iconic Brandenburg Gate on Saturday to protest against pandemic restrictions, before the rally was forced to stop because people were not respecting social distancing measures.

READ ALSO: 'Anti-coronavirus' demonstation takes place in Berlin

The Central Council of Jews in Germany has also warned of increased anti-Semitism due to coronavirus protests and criticised German daily newspaper Bild.

“For months, conspiracy theories with anti-Semitic tendencies have been deliberately stirred up in the coronavirus debate,” Josef Schuster, the Council President, said.

Not everyone who demonstrated in Berlin on Saturday are racists or anti-Semites, Schuster added. “But they walked among them.”

Two recent protests have drawn tens of thousands from across the country to Berlin.

The demonstrations were mainly peaceful, but late on Saturday, several hundred protesters broke through barriers and a police cordon to climb the steps leading to the entrance to the Reichstag parliament building.

Following that, about 300 people were arrested in scuffles with police. 

Some protesters also waved German flags and shouted “Merkel must go!”, a chant often used by the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party against Chancellor Angela Merkel. 

However, others at the rally said they attended to defend freedoms and were not extreme right-wing sympathisers.

READ ALSO: Germany warns of spike of anti-Semitism linked to coronavirus

In recent weeks there has been concern about rising numbers of coronavirus infections across Germany. Last week Merkel warned that coping with the coronavirus will become more challenging in the coming autumn and winter months. 

“In the coming months, it will now be important to keep infection rates low,” she said.

“We will have to live with this virus even longer, and that is why my basic attitude is one of vigilance, of attention […] The fact remains: it is serious, as serious as ever. Continue to take it seriously.”

 


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