German government condemns violence during COVID protests in Berlin

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BERLIN (AP) – The German government on Monday condemned an explosion of violence during weekend protests in Berlin against the country’s anti-coronavirus measures.

More than 60 police officers were injured, some seriously, police said. At least one journalist was also injured.

It was not clear how many protesters were injured, but Berlin police said a 48-year-old man died after being arrested by police during Sunday protests.

The man complained of tingling in his arm and chest as officers checked his ID card. Officers provided first aid to the man until an ambulance arrived and took him to hospital, where he later died, police said.

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Berlin prosecutors said later Monday that a routine investigation into the man’s death appeared to show he died of a heart attack. They also said in a statement that before police checked the man’s ID card, he walked through a police block, knocking down and injuring an officer who then pursued and detained him.

“Violent clashes and the abuse of the right to protest are not acceptable,” said government spokeswoman Ulrike Demmer.

Among the injured was Joerg Reichel, the head of the Berlin section of the German journalists’ union dju. Reichel was pulled from his bicycle, beaten and kicked by protesters, the Berlin daily Tagesspiegel reported.

Demmer said the attack on Reichel was “completely incomprehensible and must be condemned”.

The Reporters Without Borders group cited attacks on journalists in Germany during anti-containment protesters in its annual World Press Freedom Index, which ranks the country two places less than in 2020.

Nearly 1,000 people were temporarily detained during the protests, which saw explosions of violence as protesters defied orders to disperse and attempted to cross police lines in various areas of the capital. The police opened investigations against 503 of them, including 59 cases of police resistance and 43 cases of police assault.

Germany has relaxed many of the measures imposed during the height of the pandemic, but some requirements for wearing masks indoors and showing negative COVID-19 tests or vaccination certificates are still in place.

A spokesman for the German Interior Ministry said experience had shown that far-right extremists had previously tried to join such protests against coronaviruses.


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