Thousands of people – between 15,000 and 20,000, according to a police spokesman to the AFP agency – gathered this Saturday in the city of Kassel, in the central German state of Hessen, to protest against the restrictions imposed by the covid-19 . Most of the protesters did not wear masks and gathered without respecting the safety distance in a march through the city center that had not been authorized. The police charged the congregation and used water cannons and pepper spray.
The protest had been called by the Querdenken movement, which brings together very disparate groups that have in common their refusal to comply with the restrictions imposed by the authorities to fight the pandemic. In the movement, which translates as lateral or alternative thinking, all kinds of citizens angry with the government’s management coexist: pandemic deniers, conspiracyists, far-right movements, anti-vaccines, esoteric groups …
The concentration in Kassel has been the highest so far this year. In 2020 this movement managed to gather thousands of protesters in other German cities, including Berlin. The protest had only been authorized in one place on the outskirts of the city, and with a limited capacity, but the protesters took over the city center and clashed with the police. The officers used pepper spray, according to AFP, when a group of people tried to break through a police cordon to join another group of protesters.
“This is not what a peaceful protest is supposed to be,” tweeted police from the North Hessen region. In another message, the forces of order assured that the demonstrators threw bottles, tried to break the police barriers and there were “repeated attacks” against the emergency services, and warned: “We will not tolerate attacks of this type.” The officers also used batons and water cannons to disperse the participants. During the march, posters with the slogan “No to compulsory vaccination” were seen, although in Germany vaccination is not. “Real democracy does not tolerate censorship” and “The media are the virus” were other posters that the protesters displayed during the march.
Germany has been with restrictions since November 2 to prevent the increase in coronavirus infections. The hospitality industry was the first to close, along with leisure and culture. In mid-December all nonessential commerce and teaching was added. Primary schools and kindergartens returned to face-to-face classes in March. The incidence is rebounding again in the country, in what experts describe as the beginning of the third wave. The Minister of Health, Jens Spahn, acknowledged this Friday that the plan to gradually open public life will not be able to be fulfilled and that it is possible that the timid openings agreed two weeks ago with the federal states may even have to be reversed. Recently, shops have been allowed to open by appointment and with very limited capacity. Vaccination progresses very slowly in the country and polls show that public approval of Angela Merkel’s administration has been falling since the autumn.