Thousands of demonstrators hit the streets in several German cities over the weekend to protest Chancellor Angela Merkel’s nationwide coronavirus lockdown.
Germany has won praise for keeping its COVID-19 death toll low and already began to relax some restrictions on gatherings, businesses, schools, and even it’s professional soccer league started again.
However, protesters filled the streets for the second weekend in a row in places such as Stuttgart, Munich, and Berlin to express a range of frustrations from restrictions that battered the economy to a perceived loss of civic freedom.
The demonstration in Stuttgart exceeded the permitted number of 5,000 people, police said, and they were directed to spread out into another open space. Police said they were enforcing a mask requirement under threat of a 300 euro ($325) fine.
The permitted number of 1,000 protesters was reached in Munich on the Theresienwiese event grounds, site of the now-canceled Oktoberfest beer festival. It was one of several gatherings across the southern state of Bavaria.
Several dozen people protested anti-virus rules to loud music in Berlin in a taped-off demonstration area on the central Alexanderplatz square. A force of 1,000 police enforced a 1.5-meter (six-foot) distancing requirement and a ban on more than 50 people in one place, the dpa news agency reported.
Among the permitted protest groups were several dozen counter-protesters denouncing conspiracy theories and supporting the rights of migrants.
The protests come as German authorities report a new outbreak at a home for asylum seekers in Sankt Augustin, located about 20 miles southeast of Cologne.
A total of 170 tested positive for the virus, but none have required hospitalization, Vanessa Nolte, a spokeswoman for the city of Cologne, said Monday. All 312 residents of the home have been tested since the virus was first detected there late last week.
Meanwhile, Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron on Monday jointly proposed a 500 billion-euro ($543 billion) recovery fund for European economies hit by the pandemic.
Macron said France and Germany are proposing that the 27 EU countries decide to borrow together on the markets and use the 500 billion euros to bring financing to hardest-hit economic sectors and regions.