Skip to main content
The Globe and Mail
Support Quality Journalism.
The Globe and Mail
First Access to Latest
Investment News
Collection of curated
e-books and guides
Inform your decisions via
Globe Investor Tools
Just$1.99
per week
for first 24 weeks

Enjoy unlimited digital access
Enjoy Unlimited Digital Access
Get full access to globeandmail.com
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
var select={root:".js-sub-pencil",control:".js-sub-pencil-control",open:"o-sub-pencil--open",closed:"o-sub-pencil--closed"},dom={},allowExpand=!0;function pencilInit(o){var e=arguments.length>1&&void 0!==arguments[1]&&arguments[1];select.root=o,dom.root=document.querySelector(select.root),dom.root&&(dom.control=document.querySelector(select.control),dom.control.addEventListener("click",onToggleClicked),setPanelState(e),window.addEventListener("scroll",onWindowScroll),dom.root.removeAttribute("hidden"))}function isPanelOpen(){return dom.root.classList.contains(select.open)}function setPanelState(o){dom.root.classList[o?"add":"remove"](select.open),dom.root.classList[o?"remove":"add"](select.closed),dom.control.setAttribute("aria-expanded",o)}function onToggleClicked(){var l=!isPanelOpen();setPanelState(l)}function onWindowScroll(){window.requestAnimationFrame(function() {var l=isPanelOpen(),n=0===(document.body.scrollTop||document.documentElement.scrollTop);n||l||!allowExpand?n&&l&&(allowExpand=!0,setPanelState(!1)):(allowExpand=!1,setPanelState(!0))});}pencilInit(".js-sub-pencil",!1); // via darwin-bg var slideIndex = 0; carousel(); function carousel() { var i; var x = document.getElementsByClassName("subs_valueprop"); for (i = 0; i < x.length; i++) { x[i].style.display = "none"; } slideIndex++; if (slideIndex> x.length) { slideIndex = 1; } x[slideIndex - 1].style.display = "block"; setTimeout(carousel, 2500); } //

Police use water cannons against demonstrators protesting next to the Reichstag, in Berlin, on Nov. 18, 2020.

MICHELE TANTUSSI/Getty Images

German police used water cannons and pepper spray Wednesday to disperse people protesting coronavirus restrictions in Berlin’s government district, after crowds ignored calls to wear masks and keep their distance from one another in line with pandemic regulations.

As water sprayed from the cannons rained down on protesters outside the landmark Brandenburg Gate, police in riot gear moved through the crowd carrying away some participants. Some demonstrators threw fireworks, flares and other objects in response as police helicopters hovered overhead.

Officers avoided shooting the cannons directly at protesters because there were children in the crowd, and they worked slowly and methodically to disperse the crowd, Berlin police spokesman Thilo Cabiltz said. Some protesters popped open umbrellas and held their ground until they were eventually forced back.

Story continues below advertisement

More than 100 people were arrested, Cabiltz said, and many more temporarily detained. Nine police officers were injured. The protest crowd thinned significantly by late afternoon as many demonstrators marched back to the city’s main train station, chanting and blowing whistles.

One protester held a sign saying “Infection Protection LawDictatorship.” Another waved one reading “Truth, Freedom, Don’t Touch Our Constitution.”

The protests came as German lawmakers debated a bill that would provide legal underpinning for the government to issue social distancing rules, require masks in public and to close stores and other venues to slow the spread of the virus.

The bill easily passed both the lower and upper houses of Germany’s parliament and was fast-tracked to the country’s president, who signed it later Wednesday.

While the virus-prevention measures are supported by most people in Germany, a vocal minority has staged regular rallies around the country, arguing that the restrictions are unconstitutional.

Health Minister Jens Spahn, defended the measures in parliament ahead of the vote, telling lawmakers that authorities “struggle every day in trying to strike the balance” between restrictions and safeguarding democratic freedoms.

But he insisted that Germany had found the right path, noting that it has fared much better during the pandemic than many of its European neighbours.

Story continues below advertisement

“Where would you rather be than in Germany?” he asked lawmakers from the far-right Alternative for Germany party who criticized the lockdown measures.

Overall, the country has reported about 833,000 coronavirus cases and more than 13,000 virus-related deaths in the pandemic, a death toll one-fourth the size of Britain’s.

Spahn also praised the efforts of German pharmaceutical company BioNTech, which together with Pfizer is leading the race to develop a vaccine against COVID-19. The health minister denied that vaccinations would be compulsory, a claim repeatedly made by those protesting against government measures.

German authorities took the rare step Tuesday of banning a series of protests directly outside the parliament building due to security concerns. Fencing was put up around a wide area that included the Bundestag, nearby parliamentary offices, the federal chancellery and the presidential residence and offices.

Outside the metal cordons, protesters gathered early Wednesday by the Brandenburg Gate, and on streets and bridges. The demonstrators came from all walks of life, ranging from the far-left to the far-right, and included families and students.

“We want our lives back,” read one sign carried by protesters. Another said “Put banks under surveillance, not citizens.” One demonstrator held a flag with a picture of outgoing U.S. President Donald Trump and an image invoking the right-wing conspiracy theory “QAnon.” Another had a placard showing top German virologist Christian Drosten in prison garb with the word “guilty.”

Story continues below advertisement

Berlin police said they gave out multiple citations at Wednesday’s demonstration for violating mask-wearing regulations, but that their appeals for people to wear protective gear and to keep their distance from one another were largely ignored. The police department warned that officers had received an order to detain people not following the regulations.

“If that does not help, the only course that remains is to disperse the gathering,” the department said on Twitter.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas reacted sharply to the accusation from some protesters that the measures were akin to the 1933 “Enabling Act,” which allowed the Nazis to enact laws without parliamentary approval.

“Everyone, naturally, has the right to criticize the measures, our democracy thrives through the exchange of different opinions,” he wrote on Twitter. “But whoever relativizes or trivializes the Holocaust has learned nothing from our history.”

A demonstration earlier this month in the eastern city of Leipzig ended in chaos when thousands of protesters defied police orders to wear masks and, later, to disperse. Some participants attacked police officers and journalists.

Sign up for the Coronavirus Update newsletter to read the day’s essential coronavirus news, features and explainers written by Globe reporters and editors.

Coronavirus information
Coronavirus information
The Zero Canada Project provides resources to help you manage your health, your finances and your family life as Canada reopens.
Visit the hub

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

  1. Follow topics and authors relevant to your reading interests.
  2. Check your Following feed daily, and never miss an article. Access your Following feed from your account menu at the top right corner of every page.

Follow topics related to this article:

View more suggestions in Following Read more about following topics and authors
Report an error
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies