Hundreds of people turned out in Berlin on Sunday to protest the German government's anti-coronavirus measures despite a ban on the gatherings, leading to arrests and clashes with police. Local authorities banned several different protests this weekend, including one from the Stuttgart-based Querdenker movement, which expected 22,500 attendees. But protesters defied the ban, the AP reports, gathering Sunday around the city. Berlin's police department, which deployed more than 2,000 officers, said that as crowds grew, officers who sought to redirect protesters or disband larger groups were attacked. "They tried to break through the police cordon and pull out our colleagues," the department said, adding that police had to use irritants and batons. The protests, including in Berlin's Charlottenburg neighborhood and Tiergarten Park, led to multiple arrests, police said. As the crowds made their way toward the Brandenburg Gate, police warned via loudspeaker that they would use water cannons if protesters did not disperse.
Germany eased many coronavirus restrictions in May, allowing restaurants and bars to reopen. Still, many activities, such as dining indoors at restaurants or staying in a hotel, require proof that an individual is either fully vaccinated, has recovered from the virus, or can show proof of a recent negative coronavirus test. The Querdenker movement, the largest and most visible anti-lockdown movement in Germany, has at times drawn thousands to its demonstrations, uniting an eclectic mix of those opposed to vaccinations on both the right and the left, coronavirus deniers, conspiracy theorists, and right-wing extremists. Earlier this year, Germany's domestic intelligence service warned the movement was becoming increasingly radical and put some of its adherents under surveillance. The protest Sunday follows demonstrations against coronavirus restrictions around Europe, including a protest by 80,000 people in cities across Italy last weekend. (French protest virus pass.)