German government condemns 'unacceptable' attempt by protesters to storm Reichstag

BERLIN (AFP) – The German government on Sunday (Aug 30) slammed the “unacceptable” behaviour of protesters during a mass rally against coronavirus restrictions in which hundreds were arrested and some attempted to storm the Reichstag parliament building.

The Reichstag is the “symbolic centre of our democracy”, Interior Minister Horst Seehofer told Sunday’s edition of the Bild newspaper.

“It is unacceptable to see extremists and troublemakers use it for their own ends.”

Police said about 38,000 people, double the number expected, had gathered in Berlin on Saturday to protest against restrictions imposed to curb the spread of the coronavirus, such as the wearing of masks and social distancing.

Late on Saturday, several hundred protesters broke through barriers and a police cordon to climb the steps leading to the entrance to the Reichstag.

They were narrowly prevented from entering the building by police, who used pepper spray and arrested several people.

The Reichstag, where German deputies meet, has a powerful symbolic role in the country.

The building, with its famous dome, was burnt down by the Nazis in 1933 in an act aimed at destroying what remained of German democracy between the two world wars.

“Plurality of opinions” is a “characteristic of the good functioning of society”, said Mr Seehofer.

But “freedom of assembly reaches its limits when public rules are trampled on”.

About 300 people were arrested in scuffles with police, in front of the Reichstag but also outside the Russian embassy not far from there in the city centre, where protesters pelted police with bottles.

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