You can already see in the morning that something is different in Berlin today. While usually only a few bored policemen stroll through the area in the government district, there is a different picture on Wednesday morning: team van, barriers, blue lights. The officials have cordoned off a large area of the Bundestag.
Just after noon you can see how necessary these measures are. Around a hundred meters from the Brandenburg Gate, within sight of the Reichstag, hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people have gathered and are huddled against a police barricade. People stand shoulder to shoulder, chest to back, hardly anyone wears a mask.
Two blue water cannons have been waiting just behind the barrier for a long time. Despite the announcement that the demonstration had broken up, no one moved. Then the police start spraying the demonstrators with water. “Resistance! Resistance! ”Echoes them. Bottles fly towards the officials, fireworks explode.
Meanwhile, the debate on the reform of the Infection Protection Act, the reason for the protest, begins in the Bundestag. Among other things, it regulates which protective measures can be prescribed by state governments and authorities to contain a pandemic. These include: distance requirements, exit and contact restrictions, the restriction or prohibition of accommodation offers, travel, cultural, sport and leisure events, the closing of shops or the requirement to wear a mask in public spaces.
For the demonstrators outside, it is an “enabling law”, analogous to the enabling act with which the Nazis eliminated the opposition in 1933. A woman in her mid-30s says: “All our rights are being collected.” She herself works in the medical field, as a “naturopath and nutrition coach”. It questions what almost all virologists and epidemiologists are saying. The woman claims that the corona virus is not contagious, not fatal and that the measures against it are correspondingly exaggerated. All scientific data speak against it, of course.
In the Reichstag building, the protest from the street, the roar and the whistle, can be heard clearly. The cry “We are the people” echoes up to the third floor of the building. At the east entrance of the building there are numerous police officers, some with helmets and baton, one even with a submachine gun. Some protesters still manage to get into the building. A video makes the rounds in which a woman films Federal Minister of Economics Peter Altmaier (CDU) and harasses them. She crawls towards him: “You have no conscience at all!” Altmaier remains calm.
Members of parliament reported that they were afraid to lock themselves in the offices. How the demonstrators got access raises questions. Actually, Bundestag President Wolfgang Schäuble had restricted access to the buildings, but apparently members of the AfD have registered them as guests. There is a video circulating on the net that seems to confirm this.
Only a few politicians seek contact with the demonstrators. One of them is the SPD MP Axel Schäfer. He tells NewsABC.net about very different experiences. “I also had good, factual discussions with demonstrators,” he says. However, when another group recognized him, the situation turned. “Only a few wanted to discuss longer than three minutes, many only chanted slogans to me and too many did not wear masks – I refused to talk to them.”
When you talk to demonstrators, you always notice their self-confidence. They are not interested in the fact that almost all experts around the world advise wearing protective masks and warn of the danger posed by the virus. Often the sentence is: “I know many doctors myself …” With this justification, all objections are brushed aside.
The Berlin police report 200 arrests
In the afternoon the Bundestag passed the law with 415 votes in favor, 236 against and eight abstentions. The Federal Council also gave its approval in a special meeting. Nevertheless, there were almost all losers on that day: the police could not prevent meetings from taking place despite massive violations of distance rules and mask requirements. The legitimate concerns of the critics of the Corona policy and especially the Infection Protection Act were lost in the numerous confused heads among the demonstrators.
The image of the Bundestag has also been damaged. A member of the Union parliamentary group, who does not want to be named, said with a view to the barriers and the ranks of the police: “Look what a picture the Bundestag is giving today, it is a fortress.” She was full of conviction for them Reform of the Infection Protection Act, but also says: “We failed to explain the law to people correctly.”
But the other side, the demonstrators, are not blameless either. Many of them don’t even seem to know what they were demonstrating against. Andreas H., a self-employed entrepreneur and family man from Stuttgart, says: “The government can do what it wants with the law.” He reacts in astonishment to the objection that the law gives parliament more say.
It was a day when pretty much everything went wrong – and which will keep Germany busy for a long time to come.