Thousands took to the streets of German towns on Saturday to protest against health measures put in place by the authorities to stem the spread of the coronavirus, or to protest against the anti-vaccine movement.
As the country is facing the fifth wave - it broke the record for the highest number of cases confirmed in one week on the same day as the protests - it is also facing a growing division about citizens regarding the measures implemented to curb infections.
Thousands demonstrated against the coronavirus health measures and mandatory vaccination. Some 7,000 demonstrators gathered in Düsseldorf to protest vaccine mandates, according to police, who said the rally was largely peaceful, according to reports from Deutsche Welle.
In Freiburg im Breisgau, a city in Baden-Wurtemberg State, some 6,000 activists staged a demonstration against the health measures.
Opposing vaccine mandate
The country is considering mandatory vaccination to ensure it reaches the 80% vaccination target for the entire population. Currently, around 72% of the country's entire population is completely protected.
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German Chancellor Olaf Scholz recently advocated for a vaccine mandate for all adults during a speech in parliament, and while polls have shown a majority of people in the country would back this measure, it is opposed by a minority, which has now taken to the streets.
In the city of Hamburg, a demonstration had been planned by anti-vaccination activists which expected to draw some 15,000 participants, however, the demonstration had been banned by officials for epidemiological reasons.
The organisers filed an appeal, but this was turned down by an administrative court. Several thousands disregarded the ban and assembled on Saturday outside the Kunsthalle Museum in Hamburg. Police said most people did not wear face masks and that clashes also broke out.
Meanwhile, a rally that had originally been planned as a counterdemonstration against the Hamburg protest saw almost 3,000 people march under the banner of “Solidarity and openness of spirit instead of conspiracy ideologies."
A similar rally against conspiracy theories and the tendency to minimise the coronavirus pandemic was attended by some 2,500 people in Baden-Wurtemberg State.
On Saturday, similar measures took place in other European cities in countries where the authorities are looking at tightening measures, including in Italy, which recently introduced vaccine mandated for people aged over 50, Austria, where the parliament will vote on making vaccination mandatory for all, and in France, which is debating tightening rules for the unvaccinated.