CASSEL | Clashes erupted between police and opponents of restrictive measures against COVID-19 in Kassel, a city in central Germany, on Saturday during one of the largest such gatherings since the start of the year in this country.
• Read also: All the developments of the pandemic
Between 15,000 and 20,000 people took part in the protest, a local police spokesperson told AFP.
The clashes arose when protesters who had gathered, huddled together and not wearing a protective mask, in a square in the center of Kassel – the Friedrichsplatz -, the main rallying point, tried to make his way through a cordon of police to join other discontented, noted an AFP journalist.
The police then used pepper spray to disperse them.
Elsewhere in town, police responded with batons and water cannons at groups attempting to cross barriers and throwing bottles.
There were also fights with counter-demonstrators when the protesters swarmed from the places authorized for their gathering in the streets of Cassel.
“This is not what peaceful protest action should look like,” tweeted police in northern Hesse, one of Germany’s regional states.
In particular, she accused the demonstrators of “repeated attacks” against the employees of the emergency services.
“We do not tolerate such attacks,” added the police, who prematurely ended the rally on Friedrichsplatz because of the hygiene violations.
This demonstration took place at the call of the “Querdenker” or “Anti-conformist” movement, which has organized some of the largest “anti-corona” rallies in Germany since the start of the pandemic.
It brings together members of the far left, followers of conspiracy theories, detractors of vaccination as well as supporters of the far right.
In Cassel, some demonstrators carried signs on which one could read: “end the confinement” and “rebels of the Corona”.
Many other German cities saw such gatherings last weekend, but on a smaller scale.
All against a background of too slow vaccination of the population, say experts, to avoid a third wave of Covid-19 despite the restrictive measures taken for months to slow the spread of this disease.
On Saturday, Germany recorded 16,000 new cases of contamination and 207 more deaths, according to the Robert Koch Institute for Infectious Diseases.
Friday, the incidence rate reached 95.6 (against 90 Thursday), very close to the mark of 100 supposed to trigger additional restrictions.
Chancellor Angela Merkel and the leaders of the 16 regional states (Länder) will meet on Monday to decide on possible new measures when Germany was able to make some easing in early March.
In neighboring Switzerland, thousands of people demonstrated on Saturday in the town of Liestal to demand an end to the restrictions too.