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At the weekend, mass protests were held in Berlin against the quarantine restrictions imposed by the German government related to the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic. On Saturday, August 29, about 40 thousand people took to the streets. The mass protests revealed an ideological and cultural split in German society.
Berlin faces the protests against quarantine measures not for the first time. The previous demonstration against the excessive restrictive measures gathered about 20,000 people on August 1. The protest was interrupted by the police, because the demonstrators “did not observe the conditions of social distance”. This weekend, more people took part in the rallies, and the mask regime was canceled for one day. The main demand of the protesters is the abolition of quarantine measures, which cause significant damage to the citizens’ income. The protest against the restrictive measures quickly took the form of political demands for the resignation of the Federal government. Mass discontent is caused by the obvious dissonance between the declared threats and the observed reality.
A crowd of thousands of protesters gathered at the Brandenburg gate in the center of the German capital. Rallies were also held in different parts of the city center. The demonstrations culminated in a symbolic assault on the Bundestag. The protest action was dubbed nothing other than “taking the Reichstag”. Some of the radicals managed to break through the cordon in front of the building and climb up its stairs. The demonstrators did not enter the building itself, and the police pushed them back, using the tear gas. The Reichstag, where German deputies gather in plenary sessions, has a great symbolic significance in Germany. The building and its famous dome were burned down by the Nazis in 1933, in an act that is believed to have been intended to bring German democracy to its knees.
One of the organizers of the rallies was the organization Querdenken 711 (“Non-standard thinking”). The members of this movement are opposed to restrictive measures. They call the quarantine a dictatorship and protest against the mandatory wearing of masks because this demand has no sense and even harms conscientious executors.
The rallies themselves are a motley procession that unites members of LGBT community, anti-state activists, conspirators or far-right supporters. German authorities fear that protests against the quarantine may be used by neo-Nazis. Demonstrations are an ideal environment for radical movements to win more and more supporters for a particular ideology.
According to various statements, the main mass of the demonstrations was made up of the members of the revanchist movement “Reichsbürger” (“Citizens of the Reich”), which recognizes Germany within the borders of 1937. The reichsbürgers consider it necessary to sign a treaty with the United States, after which, Germany would gain full sovereignty. At the same time, the demonstrators believe that Russia could facilitate the signing of such a treaty, and that the Russian President has the ability to influence Donald Trump.
Despite the fact that in addition to the participants of the Reichsbürger movement, representatives of various movements participated in the rallies, the demonstrations can be described as pro-Russian and pro-American at the same time. Such a trend is a signal that German society is disillusioned with the current political course of the country and is looking for support in countries with a more authoritarian system and with real influence on the international arena.
About 300 people were detained during the protests about 200 of them were detained near the Russian Embassy in Berlin, where an unauthorized rally was organized gathering right-wing radicals and supporters of Putin’s policies. In the crowds of protesters among the flags of the German Empire, the Russian tricolor was also noticed. Videos appear on the Internet showing protesters chanting ” Putin! Putin!”. Demonstrators used placards that read: “Vladimir and Donald! Give us freedom!” Many attribute the capture of the Reichstag to an allusion to the historic storming of the Reichstag by the Soviet Red Army in May 1945.
These facts immediately led to the appearance of various gossips about Moscow’s involvement in the organization of provocations in Berlin. So the journalist of the tabloid ‘Bild’ Julian Röpcke, wrote in Twitter:
“Pro-Putin and Pro-Trump extremists tried to storm the Reichstag”.
However, various statements regarding Russian intervention seem exaggerated, in contrast to the growing level of support for Putin’s policy by the German population and hopes for a rapprochement between the two States on the international stage. Deputy of the city House of Representatives Gunnar Lindemann, explaining the shouts in support of the Russian President during the rallies, said that the Russian leader has a great authority among the Germans.
The demonstrators decided to come to the Russian Embassy to “draw attention to the conditions in Germany” in the hope that the Russian side will be able to influence Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Modern German society seems to have been overwhelmed by the Euro-Atlantic agenda. This is natural for the population, when in the context of an objective global crisis and a crisis of management decisions of an incombant bureaucracy, the population needs to have a strong leader, someone who can take full personal responsibility for the applied solutions. An additional factor influencing the growth of such sentiments is the objective benefit for Germany from the process of economic cooperation with Russia, which is opposed by Euro-Atlanticists and Brussels bureaucrats.
According to the last statistics of the ZDF, only 10% of Germans consider anti-Covid-19 restrictions to be excessive, while 60% consider them adequate and 28% as insufficient. These figures confirm the fact that in many ways the protests have already a priority not to fight against excessive restrictive measures, but to change the political course of the country.
The rallies demonstrated a deep split in many respects of an ideological nature. Far-right parties, which are gaining considerable popularity in Germany, sharply criticized attempts to ban rallies in Berlin, calling the decision “dictatorial”.
Alternative for Germany (AfD) MP Leif-Erik Holm spoke on Twitter about the “victory for freedom”. The rule of law has protected freedom of Assembly from the arbitrariness of the “left – wing Berlin municipality,” another leader of the party, Beatrix von Storch, said with satisfaction.
At this time, many German leaders denounced an “attack on democracy” after an attempt to storm the National Parliament. German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier spoke out against an “unbearable attack on the heart of our democracy” . He denounced “the outrages of the extreme right” as well as the German “flags of the Reich”.
“Diversity of opinion is the hallmark of a society that is doing well. But freedom of Assembly reaches its limits from the moment the state rules are trampled underfoot, ” said conservative Interior Minister Horst Seehofer.
Over the past month, protests against quarantine measures have taken place in many European capitals, as well as in the UK. They were much smaller in scale. For example, in Paris on Saturday, up to 300 people gathered to express their dissatisfaction on August, 29. In Berlin, the rallies, which involve tens of thousands of people, have become one of the largest protests in more than 10 years. One of the factors that contributed to this level of discontent is probably Germany’s success in preventing the spread of the pandemic. Germany is one of the most effective European countries in detecting, containing and treating coronavirus. The relatively low number of deaths has created a public perception that it is not dangerous, and that the authorities are introducing unfavorable, unnecessary measures to combat it.
The rise of far-right sentiment in Europe, as well as support for Russia’s political course, seems to be an important indicator of the decline of neoliberal ideology. This trend is accompanied by an increasing acceptance of the alternative ideology of the Russian kind, which is also manifested in the desire to get closer to Russia in the framework of international politics. Such trends are clearly visible not only in the process of rallies in Germany, but also, for example, in the foreign policy of France, conducted by Macron. Apparently, the societies of Western countries are beginning to realize the inevitability of the decline of the neoliberal agenda and are looking for an alternative in more conservative concepts, the most appropriate and close of which seems to be the pro-Russian ideology.
In this case, protest movements in post-Soviet countries, such as Ukraine and Belarus, which continue to blindly follow the Euro-Atlantic agenda driven by local nationalists, raise confusion. In practice, we observe the standard ideological waves. When the population of the leading European countries has already shifted to a different level of meaning and demands, developing countries under the influence of colonial style propaganda still continue to raise the slogans of liberal democratic dreams to the banners.