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German police arrest over 100 during anti-lockdown protest

More than 100 people were on Saturday arrested by German police for flouting the coronavirus lockdown measures they were protesting against.

Hundreds of people gathered around Berlin’s Rosa Luxemburg square in the afternoon to protest confinement measures despite authorities banning the gathering. The German capital has forbidden gatherings of more than 20 people in order to stem the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The protest organisers’ website called for “an end to the state of emergency” and played down the threat posed by the virus.

Some of the demonstrators wore T-shirts accusing Chancellor Angela Merkel of “banning life” while others simply called for “freedom”.

Others brandished placards bearing slogans such as “Stop the pharmaceutical lobby”.

Police said in a statement that it repeatedly asked protesters to disperse in order to comply with social distancing rules but that it was forced to call in reinforcements when their call went unanswered.

“A total of 105 people were identified and administrative offenses and criminal proceedings for violations of the containment measures in connection with the Infection Protection Act were initiated,” the police statement said.

Five police officers were slightly injured.

Germany has so far recorded 152,438 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 5,500 deaths, according to the Robert Koch Institute.

Public discontent with the confinement rules has been growing gradually in Germany with opposition the lockdown measures being led by the far-right, the main opposition force in the German parliament.

The far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party accuses the government of exaggerating the risk posed by the virus and has called for the immediate reopening of all businesses.