German citizens protesting in Berlin on Nov. 18, 2020 against new more restrictive coronavirus lockdowns, masking and social distancing restrictions were dispersed by police forces using water cannons and pepper spray on the crowd of about 10,000. Whistling, chanting and banging saucepans while holding signs, most of the demonstrators were not wearing masks or social distancing, which the police said required them to engage in action to clear the streets of the people failing to obey social distancing regulations.1
As helicopters flew above the crowd, some demonstrators threw fireworks, flares and other objects in response to being told to disperse by more than 2,000 police officers, including federal officers and others brought in from nine German states and several hundred protesters were arrested.2 A smaller demonstration in Frankfurt of about 600 people was also broken up by police using water cannons.3
In Berlin, the protesters that included families with children once again gathered near the 18th century Brandenburg Gate, an iconic symbol of Germany’s reunification.4 The Brandenburg Gate, which is located near the Reichstag building that houses the German parliament (Bundestag), was the scene of massive public protests in August 2020 against coronavirus lockdowns and suspension of civil liberties.5 6
Law Gives Broader Power to Federal Government
The thousands of Germans who took to the streets last week were protesting a proposed amendment to the Infection Protection Act that would make it more difficult to legally challenge federal restrictions on autonomy and freedom of assembly that include store, restaurant, stadium and other public venue closings. Social distancing regulations primarily have been enforced at the state and local levels since government officials declared a coronavirus pandemic emergency last winter.
Holding signs that said “Pandemic of Lies,” “Infection Protection Law = Dictatorship,” “Truth, Freedom, Don’t Touch Our Constitution” and “No forced vaccinations,” the Irish Times reported that the protesters and several conservative politicians are opposed to the new amendment because it gives the current administration broader authority to impose “necessary protective measures” during the pandemic emergency declaration. Some have said it is reminiscent of the Enabling Act of 1933 that gave sweeping power to Hitler’s administration during the Nazi takeover of Germany’s government before World War II.7 8
New Law Passes Same Day as Protests
Criticism of the new amendment to the Infection Protection Act has centered on the fact that the new law gives more authority to the government to curtail civil and human rights and was pushed through to enactment within a matter of weeks rather than months of deliberation and public debate. Legislators ignored the protests and the amendment was approved by the Bundestag the afternoon of Nov. 18. It easily passed through both houses of parliament and was fast tracked to the president, who signed it the same day.9
1 Reuters. German police clash with protesters angry at Merkel’s coronavirus law. Nov. 18, 2020.
2 Noryskiewicz A. Hundreds arrested, police use water cannons to quell “aggressive” protests against Germany’s COVID rules. CBS News Nov. 18, 2020.
3 The Strait Times. Water cannon fired at Frankfurt rally against coronavirus lockdown. Nov. 15, 2020.
4 Encyclopedia Britannica. Brandenberg Gate.
5 Fisher BL. Biggest Anti-Lockdown Freedom Day Protest Held in Berlin. The Vaccine Reaction Aug. 3, 2020.
6 Fisher BL. Major Protests in Berlin and London Opposing Forced Masking and Lockdowns. The Vaccine Reaction Aug. 31, 2020.
7 Scally D. Police deploy water cannon to disperse Covid-19 protest in Berlin. Irish Times Nov. 18, 2020.
8 Encyclopedia Britannica. Enabling Act (Germany, 1933).
9 Rising D. Berlin police forcefully disperse protest over virus rules. Associated Press Nov. 18, 2020.