German government decries Reichstag protest as 'shameful'

BERLIN (BLOOMBERG) – Chancellor Angela Merkel’s chief spokesman condemned as “shameful” chaotic protests over the weekend in Berlin, when far-right demonstrators breached a security barrier to mount the front steps of Parliament.

“The result was the shameful scenes at the Reichstag, which cannot be accepted – opponents of democracy causing trouble on the steps of our democratic parliament,” Mr Steffen Seibert told reporters on Monday (Aug 31).

He joined a chorus of leading politicians decrying the incident, which took place during protests against coronavirus restrictions.

“We saw an example at the weekend of how the right to protest freely was abused by some people,” Mr Seibert said at a regular news conference.

“Our friends abroad know very well that Germany is a strong and resilient democracy.”

German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier called the scenes, during which demonstrators waving black-white-and-red flags of the pre-World War II German Reich, an “intolerable attack on the heart of our democracy”.

The Reichstag houses Germany’s Lower House of Parliament, the Bundestag.

An estimated 38,000 people, including right-wing protesters, conspiracy theorists and a broad spectrum of other anti-government demonstrators, took part in large rallies in central Berlin on Saturday.

Police struggled to maintain order as many ignored hygiene and distancing rules and smaller groups turned violent, including in front of the Russian embassy.

In another sign of heightened tensions, high-level officials rallied around Health Minister Jens Spahn on Monday after he was verbally abused during a public appearance in North Rhine-Westphalia at the weekend.

A video showed him approaching a crowd in Bergisch Gladbach, with several people shouting “shame”.

Defence Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, the head of Dr Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union, said the party condemned the behaviour, which she said involved spitting and homophobic abuse directed at Mr Spahn, who is openly gay.

“Homophobic insults and spitting are unacceptable and unjustifiable,” Ms Kramp-Karrenbauer said in a tweet.

“This no longer has anything to do with decency and debating culture.”

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