Violence flares at pandemic protests in Germany

Police officers arrest a demonstrator in the city centreof Bautzen, Germany, during protests against Corona measures and a possible compulsory vaccination in Germany, Monday evening, Jan. 3, 2022. Tens of thousands of people took to the streets in scores of German towns and cities for weekly marches that have organizers have labeled ‘strolls’ in an attempt to bypass restrictions on public gatherings. Most of the rallies passed peacefully, though many broke rules on social distancing, prompting officers to intervene. (Robert Michael/dpa via AP)

BERLIN (AP) — Police in Germany have reported sporadic violence at demonstrations against the country’s pandemic restrictions, with one protester in the eastern town of Lichtenstein biting an officer and another attempting to steal a service weapon.

Tens of thousands of people in total took to the streets in scores of German towns and cities for weekly marches that have organizers have labeled “strolls” in an attempt to bypass restrictions on public gatherings. Counter-protests were also held in towns such as Rostock and Trier, the dpa news agency reported.

Most of the rallies passed peacefully, though many broke rules on social distancing, prompting officers to intervene. People detained dozens of people, some of whom face criminal charges or fines for breaching COVID-19 rules.

Police in the eastern state of Saxony said the incident late Monday in Lichtenstein, about 20 kilometers (12 miles) west of Chemnitz, occurred when officers tried to pull about 60 rowdy people out of a march to check their identities. Several of the protesters attacked police and sprayed them with chemical irritants.

“One person attempted to seize an officer’s service weapon and another police officer suffered a bite wound from a participant of the gathering,” Saxony police said in a statement.

In Bautzen, further east, some participants of a 600-strong march attempted to break through a police cordon. Officers responded with pepper spray and batons.

In Magdeburg, the capital of neighboring Saxony-Anhalt state, protesters hurled bottles and fireworks at police. No officers were injured, police said.

The protests took place before a meeting Tuesday of Germany’s pandemic expert panel, which is expected to submit new recommendations to the government for how to respond to the outbreak. A meeting of state and federal leaders is scheduled for Friday.

The national disease control center, the Robert Koch Institute, said Tuesday that 30,561 new coronavirus cases were reported in the past 24 hours, over 9,000 more than a week earlier. The officially recorded infection rate was 239.9 new cases per 100,000 residents over the past week.

The health minister has said the real rate is probably two or three times higher because of patchy testing and reporting over the holiday period.

At least 356 new deaths from COVID-19 were reported in Germany on Tuesday.

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