Berlin bans weekend protests against anti-virus measures

BERLIN (AP) — Authorities in Berlin on Wednesday banned several protests planned for the weekend against coronavirus pandemic measures. The protests have drawn support from the German far right.

Officials said that those protesting would likely have breached rules on social distancing designed to stop the spread of the virus. Germany has seen an upswing in infections in recent weeks and the government is considering whether to impose fresh restrictions again.

Authorities in the capital cited a rally against COVID-19 restrictions on Aug. 1 during which participants ignored mask-wearing and distancing rules and other conditions imposed on the protest.

Berlin’s top security official, Andreas Geisel, welcomed the decision.

“We need to weigh the basic right of freedom of assembly against the sanctity of life,” he said in a statement. “We chose life.”

Geisel said police would act to stop any large gathering of people and indicated that authorities wouldn’t tolerate a tent camp that protesters have erected near the German parliament.

“I’m not prepared to accept that Berlin is abused a second time as a stage for corona deniers … and right-wing extremists,” he said.

Numerous leading figures in the country’s far-right scene, including members of the Alternative for Germany party, had announced they would participate in rallies in Berlin on Saturday.

The party’s leader in the Berlin state assembly, Georg Pazderski, criticized the decision to ban the protests, calling it disproportionate and unjustified.

The protest ban can be appealed in court.

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