Thousands of demonstrators gathered at Berlin's Brandenberg Gate on Saturday to protest Germany's pandemic restrictions—as police pleaded with them to wear masks and socially distance. When the warnings were ignored, police eventually ordered the crowd at the sit-in to leave, the BBC reports. Organizers had billed the event as a "day of freedom" from the coronavirus rules, and few in the crowd of nearly 20,000 wore a mask. "Yes, demonstrations should be allowed even amid the pandemic," the government's health minister posted online. "But not like this." Police used loudspeakers to urge the protesters to follow the rules and said they were "documenting non-compliance for possible later prosecution." One speaker asked demonstrators to spread out so police wouldn't have "a pretext" for dispersing the crowd, per CNN.
The crowd carried signs with messages such as "We are being forced to wear a muzzle" and shouted "We are the second wave." Anti-vaccine and neo-Nazi organizations were represented. "Our demand is to go back to democracy," one woman in the crowd said. "Away with these laws that have been imposed on us, away with the masks that make us slaves." The nation's guidelines require wearing masks when it's not possible for people to stay about 5 feet apart. Germany has avoided the worst of the coronavirus outbreak, recording about 210,000 confirmed cases and more than 9,000 deaths. But it's worried about an increase. For Friday, 955 new cases were reported, the first time the number has been that high since early May. Germany's disease control agency blames the rise on returning travelers and a lack of enforcement of the social distancing and mask rules. (Mexico earned a grim distinction.)