German government welcomes probe into virus protest policing

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A woman speaks to police officers on duty at a rally under the motto “Free citizens Kassel – basic rights and democracy” in Kassel, Germany, Saturday, March 20, 2021. According to police, several thousand people were on the move in the city center and disregarded the instructions of the authorities during the unregistered demonstration against Corona measures. (Swen Pfoertner/dpa via AP)

BERLIN (AP) — The German government on Monday welcomed a decision by state authorities to examine the police response to a weekend anti-lockdown protest during which participants openly flouted coronavirus pandemic restrictions.

Scuffles broke out between some of the 20,000 people participating in the protest in the central German city of Kassel on Saturday and counterdemonstrators trying to block their path.

Footage showed police letting protesters march trough the city largely unhindered, with officers at one point forcefully hauling counterprotesters out of their path.

The top security official of Hesse state, Peter Beuth, criticized protesters who had refused to wear masks, saying they put the lives of others at risk.

“The federal government welcomes the willingness of Hesse’s Interior Minister Beuth to, as he put it, thoroughly the review the entire police operation in Kassel,” government spokeswoman Martina Fietz said.

Germany has seen a rise in the number of coronavirus cases in recent weeks.

The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases in the country has risen over the past two weeks from 9.95 per 100,000 people on March 7 to 15.54 new cases per 100,000 people on March 21.

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