Protests against quarantine measures in Germany are moving to the next stage: for the demonstration on August 29, the Berlin government is preparing an army of thousands of police officers.
In German, as in Western society in general, the illusion that ordinary citizens are able to influence the policy of the authorities through protests is very deeply rooted. This illusion is supported by the practice of protests, which fits into a certain global trend: anti-racism, minority rights, and so on. Therefore, every ban on a demonstration in Germany is always a kind of kurtosis, especially when it comes to a large number of participants.
Scheduled for August 29 in Berlin, another multi-thousand anti-quarantine demonstration was banned by the authorities. Berlin Interior Senator Andreas Geisel warned that an escalation of violence is possible in Berlin this weekend and thousands of police forces will come out to protect public order. Reinforcements for the Berlin police will also arrive from other federal states in Germany. The Berlin senator was alarmed by public discontent over the ban on the demonstration.
A demonstration of protest against quarantine in Berlin for the coming Saturday, August 29, was scheduled by a movement from the German city of Stuttgart called Querdenken, which roughly means вЂњdissentвЂќ or вЂњthink outside the boxвЂќ. What did these вЂњdissentersвЂќ from Stuttgart want to demonstrate to the Berlin authorities, what made the senator ban their demonstration, and why is he now warning of a possible escalation of violence in Berlin? After Geisel's message about the ban was published, the organizers of the demonstration apologized for the senator's ignorance and promised that the demonstration would still take place.
But let's get it straight from the beginning.
The Querdenken movement, led by programmer and entrepreneur Michael Ballweg, was noticed by the German press at the end of April 2020 in organizing demonstrations against quarantine restrictions on public life. The protesters argued that the quarantine regulations violated the Federal Republic of Germany's constitution and called for its implementation. Their demonstrations were relatively small, regional in nature, and nevertheless banned by local authorities. Despite the bans, the organizers managed to get permission for demonstrations in the Federal Republic of Germany's constitutional court, that is, they have experience in fighting bans. At one of these demonstrations, вЂњdissidentsвЂќ stood behind a fence and at a decent distance from each other, but still occupied a small area, since there were only 40 of them.
However, over time, the number of their supporters grew, and on August 1, according to the authorities' estimates, about 20 thousand protesters attended the demonstration in Berlin. The organizers themselves said that about 1.3 million people attended their rally. They justified their assessments by the fact that during anti-racist rallies and marches, such crowded streets are accompanied by press reports about a million participants. Video footage from the rally shows that the 17 June Berlin street is filled with people from the Brandenburg Gate to the Victory Stella.
If you roughly estimate the area of the roadway of the street, you get about 60 thousand square meters. It seems like too much space for 20 thousand, but too cramped for a million people. And the assessment of the number of participants became the subject or even the cornerstone of the dispute that erupted in the information field between the authorities and the organizers of the rally. Maybe because they didn't give anything else to demonstrate, or maybe it was intended that way. Because sometime after the start of the rally, the police declared the demonstration over and called on the organizers to leave the stage and the participants to disperse.
To understand why the people were gathering, and what they wanted to say, one would have to look at the manifesto of the вЂњdissidentsвЂќ movement and the announcement of the demonstration. There we will read that the Querdenken movement considers itself to be non-partisan, accepts all points of view, except for the left and right-wing extremists, and has gathered to defend the Federal Republic of Germany's constitution. The movement invites citizens to the rally who believe that political parties in Germany should change their programs in accordance with the current situation and provide them to citizens. After all, this, as stated in the program of the Querdenken rally, early parliamentary elections are to be held in Germany in October 2020.
On the one hand, the organizers declared their nationalism, and, on the other hand, spoke out against the left and right radicalism. вЂњWe are against extremism, violence, discrimination, and bigotry. For democracy, peace, humanity, freedom, respect, and love! вЂњ вЂ” says the program of the meeting. The emptiness of slogans that strongly resemble the sacramental вЂњfor all good and against all badвЂќ is obvious. This suggests that the main goal of the demonstration was in fact to gather as many people as possible.
Of course, mass numbers are important for realizing one's political ambitions. But the calls to hold new parliamentary elections in two months look somewhat comical against this background. And even if 2 million people gather on August 29, these requirements are unlikely to be realized. Germany's political system is too clumsy to organize early elections a month after the street action.
Another oddity is also striking. If we take another look at the program of the demonstration, we will see that more than half of the positions in the list of organizers are occupied by rappers, singers, and other figures of mass pop culture. The organizers gathered not so much to discuss issues of protecting the constitution, restrictions on freedom by quarantine measures, and political changes in the country with politically active citizens, but to entertain the public.
This entertainment was supposed to keep the people who came into place and encourage them not to leave for as long as possible. When we watch the video broadcast of the August 1 demo, we can see that one of the organizers, Samuel Eckert, regularly expresses his admiration for how many people have gathered, and calls for attention.
Under normal conditions, such a meaningless demonstration would look like a senseless farce, but not in the context of a pandemic declared by the authorities of a highly infectious, poorly understood infection that causes a serious illness with a high probability of death. In the face of such a pandemic, the huge number of demonstrators and their density in a relatively small area should lead to an explosive increase in the number of infected people after the incubation period. And, as a consequence, to the collapse of the health care system and catastrophe in the national economy.
What if all this does not happen?
In this case, the authorities will find it difficult to continue convincing citizens of the need for restrictive measures, wearing masks, remote work, distance learning for children, as well as the need for huge financial investments in failing enterprises, the development of vaccines and compulsory vaccinations. And, perhaps, someone will have to answer for the decisions made about the implementation of all these activities. That is why the authorities tried to underestimate as much as possible the number of participants in the protest demonstration.
And what result can we see after the rally on August 1? Members of the Querdenken movement published their analysis of this issue on August 18, that is, after the end of the incubation period of 14 days. In a press release, вЂњdissidentsвЂќ cited data on the number of people infected with coronavirus and deaths in Germany from COVID-19, depending on the time from the beginning of March to 14 August. From these data, taken from the website of the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), it is clearly seen that the rally on August 1 did not in any way affect the number of people infected with the coronavirus. In the same press release, the organizers invited people from all over Europe to the For Peace and Freedom demonstration on August 29 in Berlin.
However, on August 26, the Berlin authorities, represented by the Berlin Interior Senator Andreas Geisel, banned the demonstration. The ban is based on the experience of the protest held in Berlin on August 1. вЂњThe demonstrations of August 1, 2020, showed that participants deliberately disregard hygiene rules and related regulations,вЂќ the Senate press service said.
In addition, in his message, Geisel allowed himself to express his opinion on the ideological position of the citizens who took part in the demonstration on August 1: вЂњFor the second time, I will not tolerate that the crown-dissidents, the Reich burghers and neo-Nazis used Berlin as a stage.вЂќ
The reaction of society was not long in coming.
On the same day, the head of the Querdenken movement published a press release in which he wrote that he was shocked by the ban on assemblies, that the ban would be challenged in the constitutional court, and the meeting would still take place. The organizers of the movement expressed confidence that the Constitutional Court of the Federal Republic of Germany will reject this вЂњhostile attack on the constitution.вЂќ In the same message, Michael Ballweg apologized to the groups that took part in the rally for the ignorance of Senator Geisel, who called them вЂњright-wing radicals and conspiracy theorists.вЂќ
вЂњThe senator of the interior is not fully informed and ignores the assessments of the department for the protection of the constitution,вЂќ writes Ballweg and quotes the intelligence agency for the protection of the constitution, according to which only individuals from the radical right of the political spectrum could take part in the demonstrations on August 1. These individuals did not influence in any way either the course of the demonstration or the meeting as a whole. In addition, it follows from the assessment of the secret service that the rally did not provide вЂњthe traditional neo-Nazi environment with any opportunity to connect to the democratic participants in the demonstration.вЂќ
What is happening at the moment, and what should be expected in the near future?
The people were warmed up with a ban on the rally, and then they were allowed to gather. The right-wing radicals called on to take Berlin by storm, and the police are preparing for tomorrow's meeting of both. We keep our finger on the pulse of events.