Police clash with protesters as Germany passes virus law


Police clashed with thousands of protesters in Berlin on Wednesday as the German parliament passed an amendment to give Angela Merkel’s government power to impose tougher anti-coronavirus measures.

With Germany buckling under a third wave of the pandemic, the new law allowing for nationwide curbs including school closures and night curfews aims to end a political tug-of-war between the Federal government and the 16 regional states over virus restrictions.

Around 8,000 protesters gathered in the German capital as the amendment was debated in the Bundestag lower house of parliament, with more than 2,000 police officers deployed to the scene.

Demonstrators were carrying placards with slogans such as “Merkel & Co = high treason” and chanting “Wir sind das Volk” (“We are the people”) — a common refrain in the run-up to the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.

Police said some 150 people were detained for throwing bottles, attacking officers and failing to comply with rules on mask wearing and distancing.

Three officers were injured.
Tear gas was fired as police attempted to drag protesters from the streets, according to an AFP video journalist at the scene.

Dubbed the “emergency brake”, the amended law prescribes tough measures including sweeping shutdowns and overnight curfews in regions with incidence rates of more than 100 new infections per 100,000 people over the last seven days.

It will also force schools to revert to virtual teaching in areas where the incidence rate exceeds 165.

Only one state had an incidence rate below 100 on Wednesday, while seven topped 165 — including the two most populous of Bavaria and North Rhine-Westphalia.

– Fierce opposition – The curfews will apply from 10:00 pm to 5:00 am, with exceptions for lone walkers and joggers before midnight.

The proposals have come under fierce opposition, particularly the plans for curfews in a country still scarred by memories of Nazi and communist dictatorships that spied on citizens and stole their freedoms.—AP

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