Tens of thousands rally across Germany to protest against racism

By dpa correspondents

Tens of thousands of protesters took part in demonstrations in major German cities on Saturday to protest against racism and police violence following the killing of George Floyd.

Police estimated around 15,000 people flooded into Berlin’s central Alexanderplatz square, with officers taking to Twitter 45 minutes in to declare the square “full” and to ask people to stop arriving.

Only 1,500 participants had been registered for the event, which police said was ended voluntarily by organizers after several hours.

Police said early Sunday 93 people were detained and 28 police officials were injured, three of whom were taken to hospital.

Around 800 officers were on duty.

After the peaceful demonstration, violence broke out near Alexanderplatz station – stones and bottles were thrown at police after a man was arrested for damage to a police vehicle.

Other arrests had been made for trespassing, resisting and assaulting law enforcement officers, attempted release of prisoners, and violating anti-infection laws, during the coronavirus pandemic, police said.

Officers earlier called on attendees to maintain social distancing and wear face masks to limit the spread of the coronavirus.

Police also asked protesters to spill over into adjacent streets to maintain safe distancing.

Aerial photographs shared on social media showed large crowds dressed in black and carrying banners supporting the Black Lives Matter movement.

Organizers’ calls for a silent demonstrations to pay tribute to Floyd, an unarmed African-American man killed by a US police officer last week, circulated online in recent days.

Demonstrators in the German capital, among them many young people, observed a silence lasting 8 minutes and 46 seconds, representing the time it took for Floyd to lose consciousness as the officer knelt on his neck.

Another 20,000 people attended a rally in the southern city of Munich, police said, 10 times the 200 participants registered beforehand, the central city of Frankfurt saw 8,000 people.

The demonstrations were largely peaceful, with a few minor incidents.

In the northern city of Hamburg, where 14,000 people had turned out, police said three officers were injured in an altercation with a group of protesters throwing pyrotechnics at the end of the event.

In a separate incident, officers said they had deployed water cannon against protesters who they said were throwing objects at them.

In Berlin, police said they made a number of arrests after a group of demonstrators threw bottles and stones at officers. One officer was injured. In a separate incident, a press photographer was hit in the head by a bottle, police added.

A number of social media users criticized protesters for images that appeared to show them flouting social distancing requirements put in place due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Police in Munich said they repeatedly warned demonstrators to keep to social distancing rules, “which were often not observed at the beginning,” a spokesperson told dpa.

Federal Health Minister Jens Spahn expressed concern about dense crowds during the coronavirus pandemic. “The fight against racism needs our common commitment. Every day”, Spahn wrote on Twitter on Saturday evening.

“But crowds of people in the middle of the pandemic worry me….Keep your distance, wear a mask, take care of each other. To protect us and others.”

A graphic video of Floyd’s killing has convulsed public opinion around the world and sparked nightly protests across the US. Washington was expected to see its largest protest yet on Saturday.

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