German leaders condemn far-right attempt to storm Reichstag

BERLIN — Senior German officials condemn attempts by far-right protesters and others to storm the parliament building following a protest against the country’s pandemic restrictions.

Hundreds of people, some waving the flag of the German Reich of 1871-1918 and other far-right banners, breached a security barrier outside the Reichstag last night but were intercepted by police and forcibly removed.

“Reich flags and right-wing extremist provocations in front of the German Bundestag are an unbearable attack on the heart of our democracy,” Germany’s president, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, says today. “We will never accept this.”

Steinmer says people had the right to express their anger about the coronavirus restrictions and to question them publicly, including with demonstrations.

“My sympathy ends where protesters allow themselves to be used by enemies of democracy and political agitators,” he adds.

Police used pepper spray to drive back the protesters, who earlier in the day had participated in a large rally through the capital.

About 300 people were arrested in front of the Reichstag and following an incident at the Russian embassy, according to police.

Berlin’s top security official, Andreas Geisel, praises three officers who had stood alone against the protesters outside the Reichstag until reinforcements arrived. Opposition parties criticize the police’s failure to station sufficient officers around Parliament despite public warnings from far-right extremists that they planned to try to enter the building.

Robert Habeck, the co-leader of Germany’s Green party, calls for a thorough investigation into the incident.

“The fact that Nazis with imperial war flags try to storm the Bundestag recalls the darkest period in German history,” he tells the Funke media group.

“An incident like on Saturday evening must not be allowed to happen again,” Habeck says. “I expect (federal) Interior Minister Horst Seehofer to decisively combat right-wing extremism at all levels.”

Opinion polls show overwhelming support for the prevention measures imposed by German authorities, such as the requirement to wear masks on public transportation, in stores and in some public buildings such as libraries and schools.

— AP

Police officers push away a crowd of demonstrators from the square ‘Platz der Republik’ in front of the Reichstag building during a demonstration against coronavirus restrictions in Berlin, Germany, August 29, 2020. (Christoph Soeder/dpa via AP)

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