German government blasts 'unacceptable' coronavirus curb abuses at Berlin protests

Around 20,000 people took part in the "day of freedom" demonstration in Berlin on Aug 1, 2020. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

BERLIN (AFP) - The German government on Monday (Aug 3) condemned what it said were "unacceptable" violations of coronavirus restrictions after tens of thousands - most with no masks - took to the streets of Berlin to protest the measures over the weekend.

Chancellor Angela Merkel's spokeswoman Ulrike Demmer said that protesters who failed to wear masks or respect social distancing rules had "exploited their right to demonstrate" and were "in no way justified".

While the freedom to demonstrate was "important", the "images we saw this weekend were unacceptable", said Ms Demmer.

She said the government condemned "not only the massive violations against hygiene regulations and basic protective measures", but also reported attempts to hinder journalists from reporting and attacks on police.

Around 20,000 people took part in the "day of freedom" demonstration on Saturday, the majority not covering their nose and mouth or respecting Germany's 1.5m social distancing requirement.

The crowd, a mixture of hard left and right, and conspiracy theorists, shouted "We are the second wave" as they converged on the Brandenburg Gate, demanding "resistance" and dubbing the pandemic "the biggest conspiracy theory".

Police said that some 45 officers were injured at the "day of freedom" and other demonstrations.

The number of coronavirus cases has risen in Germany in recent weeks, prompting political leaders to warn against complacency.

"We cannot let up in the fight against the pandemic. It is not over, we are still in the middle of it," said German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier in a video message on Monday.

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