Germans angry at virus law clash with cops

Maria Sheahan and Madeline Chambers
·1-min read

German police have unleashed water cannon and pepper spray in an effort to scatter thousands of protesters angry over plans to empower Chancellor Angela Merkel's government to enforce restrictions to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

Protesters near Berlin's landmark Brandenburg Gate threw bottles at police and set off smoke bombs, witnesses reported.

Riot police detained some protesters while firing volleys of water and urging crowds by loudspeaker to disperse.

Police detained 190 people and nine officers were injured.

Demonstrators opposed legislation passed by the lower house to enshrine in law powers to impose steps such as curbs on social contact, rules on mask-wearing, drinking alcohol in public and shutting shops.

The bill, put forward by Merkel's coalition government, passed by 415 votes to 236, with eight abstentions.

The aim of the amendment, to go to the upper house later on Wednesday, is to prevent legal challenges to the measures that have so far mostly been enforceable at the state or local level.

Although most Germans accept the latest "lockdown light" to tackle a second wave of the coronavirus, critics say the amendment endangers citizens' civil rights.

Protesters, whistling and banging saucepans, were neither keeping the required social distance nor wearing face masks.

Some held banners with slogans such as "Stop the corona pandemic lie" and "No to forced vaccinations".

Health Minister Jens Spahn told parliament no one would be forced to be vaccinated and described the pandemic as a "once in a century phenomenon".