German police on Wednesday fired water cannons in an attempt to disperse crowds gathered in the capital of Berlin protesting government efforts to implement additional coronavirus safety regulations.
According to The Associated Press, crowds gathered around the famous Brandenburg Gate, with police carrying riot gear moving through the swarms of people ignoring calls to wear masks and social distance.
Some police forcibly carried away participants, while other protesters threw fireworks and flares as police helicopters traveled over the crowd.
The demonstrations came as members of the German legislature began debate on a bill that would allow for the government to implement rules on social distancing, mask requirements and the closure of nonessential businesses.
The bill is expected to pass in both the lower and upper houses of parliament with widespread support, although the AP reported that some in the country have continued to vocalize their opposition to the bill, arguing that the restrictions are unconstitutional.
At Wednesday’s demonstrations, the AP reported that protesters held signs with phrases such as, “We want our lives back,” and “Put banks under surveillance, not citizens.”
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas on Wednesday took to Twitter to condemn the accusations from some protesters that the newly proposed measures were similar to the 1933 “Enabling Act,” which allowed the Nazi regime to enact laws without parliamentary approval.
“Everyone, naturally, has the right to criticize the measures, our democracy thrives through the exchange of different opinions,” he wrote. “But whoever relativizes or trivializes the Holocaust has learned nothing from our history.”
Selbstverständlich hat jede/r das Recht, die Maßnahmen zu kritisieren. Unsere Demokratie lebt vom Austausch verschiedener Meinungen. Wer allerdings den Holocaust verharmlost oder relativiert, hat aus unserer Geschichte nichts gelernt. #b1811 (3/4)— Heiko Maas (@HeikoMaas) November 18, 2020
Germany and other European countries like France and the United Kingdom, have reimposed national lockdowns as coronavirus cases have surged across the region in recent weeks.
German Health Minister Jens Spahn told German broadcaster RTL at the time that while the country was “definitely seeing signs of change,” Germans “cannot talk of a trend reversal.”
As of Wednesday morning, Germany has had more than 843,000 recorded COVID-19 cases and more than 13,000 deaths due to the virus, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.