June 23, 2021

Berlin police deploy water cannon as protesters march against Covid-19 restrictions

Police officers block a road as people attend a protest rally in front of the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, Germany, on Wednesday. Michael Sohn/AP

Officers are using water cannon and pepper spray as they try to disperse a protest against coronavirus restrictions in the German capital, Berlin police said Wednesday.

The demonstration is taking place near the Brandenburg Gate, a few hundred meters away from Germany’s parliament, the Reichstag, which has temporarily locked its doors.

Officers at the demonstration have been targeted with “bottles, stones and firecrackers as well as with pepper spray. In turn, they are using physical coercion and pepper spray and have arrested some of the attackers,” a tweet from the Berlin police said.

A previous tweet said that because the protesters “did not fulfil the obligation to leave the location, people were just rained on by our water cannons.”

Television pictures showed a tense standoff between police officers and demonstrators. Police have been trying to slowly move the demonstrators away from the parliament after tweeting the demonstration was being dissolved.

Parliament is in session and there is a debate going on in the main plenary hall.

Berlin police spokesman Stefan Petersen earlier told CNN that several thousand protesters had gathered near the parliamentary district in central Berlin.

The organizers for several demonstrations asked for permission to demonstrate in the no-protest zone around the German parliament, and that permission was not granted, Petersen said.

TV footage showed many demonstrators without masks and not socially distanced. Some protesters were carrying flags for the right-wing populist Alternative for Germany (AfD) political party, and at least one imperial banner — a flag now deployed by the far right as the swastika is prohibited in Germany — could be seen.

The Berlin police force tweeted that requests to wear a mask had not had any effect.

Around 2,200 police officers will be deployed overall Wednesday, Petersen said.