Germany and other countries have started to loosen some of the restrictions on movement, but anti-lockdown demonstrators protested, saying they wanted more freedom.

Police clash with protesters demanding an end to economic restrictions during the coronavirus pandemic in Warsaw, Poland, Saturday, May 16, 2020.
Police clash with protesters demanding an end to economic restrictions during the coronavirus pandemic in Warsaw, Poland, Saturday, May 16, 2020. (Czarek Sokolowski / AP)

Demonstrations took place on Saturday in several European cities against restrictions aimed at controlling the spread of the coronavirus, with tear gas used on protesters in Poland and arrests made at a gathering in London’s Hyde Park.

Police in several German cities enforced distancing rules as thousands of people gathered to express a mix of frustrations — at restrictions battering the economy and a perceived loss of civic freedom. In some places, people also voiced conspiracy theories and anti-vaccine views.

Angered by a slew of lockdown measures, purported vaccine plans or alleged state surveillance, thousands took to the streets on Saturday in Germany in a growing wave of demonstrations that has alarmed even Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Initially starting as a handful of protesters decrying tough restrictions on public life to halt transmission of the coronavirus, the demonstrations have swelled in recent weeks to gatherings of thousands in major German cities.

Huge numbers of anti-lockdown protesters, conspiracy theorists, anti-vaxxers or extremists massed across Germany again on Saturday, with more than 5,000 gathering in Stuttgart, at least 1,500 in Frankfurt and around 1,000 in Munich.

"Corona is fake", claimed one poster held aloft in Stuttgart, "Isolation, Masks, Tracking, Vaccine –– that's a no go", cried another.

Police in Stuttgart said that the permitted number of 5,000 demonstrators was exceeded and directed arriving participants to another open space. Police said there were enforcing a mask requirement under threat of a 300 euro ($325) fine.

Police in Berlin made 200 arrests as scuffles broke out, while in Hamburg, conspiracy theorists clashed with anti-lockdown protesters.

Several dozen people protested anti-virus rules to loud music in Berlin in a taped-off demonstration area on the central Alexanderplatz square, overseen by 1,000 police who enforced a 1.5 meter (six-foot) distancing requirement and a ban on more than 50 people in one place, the dpa news agency reported. 

Among the permitted protest groups were several dozen counter-protesters denouncing conspiracy theories and supporting the rights of migrants.

The permitted number of 1,000 protesters was reached in Munich on the Theresienwiese event grounds, site of the now-cancelled Oktoberfest beer festival. It was one of a number of gatherings across the southern state of Bavaria.

Germany and other countries have started to loosen some of the restrictions on movement, gatherings and businesses under restrictions on numbers of customers and spacing of seating. 

Retailers and restaurants have been hard hit and face uncertain futures. Germany's professional soccer league resumed matches on Saturday in stadiums without spectators.

London protesters seek "freedom"

In Britain, anti-lockdown and anti-vaccine protesters held a gathering in Hyde Park in central London and were met by a heavy police presence.

The protesters chanted "Freedom" and held handmade placards. Some sat on the grass and had picnics while observing social distancing guidelines while others ignored the rules and gathered in groups.

Officers tried to disperse the groups, threatening them with fines if they didn’t comply. They arrested 13 people, the London Metropolitan Police Service said.

This is the first weekend since the British government eased lockdown rules for England, allowing people to spend more time outdoors. 

Activities they’re now allowed to do include having a picnic and they are also allowed to meet one other person from another household as long as social distancing is obeyed.

Business owners protest in Warsaw

Dozens of people, including a senator, were detained during a protest by business owners in the Polish capital against coronavirus restrictions, while police used tear gas against protesters. 

The city of Warsaw said the gathering was illegal because it had not been previously approved.

Jacek Bury, a senator for the opposition Civic Platform party, said he was hurt by police when trying to defend another protester. Warsaw police said they faced cases of “aggression against police officers.” Police denied using force against Bury.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies