Thousands of people took the streets of multiple cities in the former East Germany to express their dismay at coronavirus restrictions and vaccine mandates introduced amid the Omicron variant spread.
Some 3,500 demonstrators turned out for a protest against the restrictions in Magdeburg, the capital of Germany’s Saxony-Anhalt state on Monday. Protesters marched down the city center chanting "Resistance!" and other slogans against the sweeping measures imposed on account of the rapid spread of the new Covid-19 strain in Europe.
Some 30 separate demonstrations, the majority of them against the government’s coronavirus policy, were held in Saxony-Anhalt on Monday alone. About 1,500 people took to the streets in Halberstadt, a town of just over 40,000 people.
In Wittenberg, which is home to about 46,000 people, some 1,300 showed up for the protest.
Smaller demonstrations took place in Naumburg, Querfurt, Schönebeck, Aschersleben, and Dessau, among others.
"Significantly more people took part in the protests [this week] than last week," local media reported, citing police estimates. The protest sentiment has been on the rise in the eastern German state.
Responding to the protests, a local representative of the anti-establishment AfD (Alternative for Germany) party expressed "full solidarity" with the opponents of strict coronavirus measures, calling them "completely normal peaceful people" who are demanding their "civil liberties."
The protests proceeded incident-free, and there have been no reports of arrests or scuffles between anti-mandate demonstrators and a counter-protest that drew in several dozen people in Magdeburg.
A wave of demonstrations has engulfed Germany as Berlin rolled out new restrictions amid Omicron fears, such as a new law making Covid-19 vaccines mandatory for healthcare staff.
Despite growing public discontent over the restrictions, Germany’s new Chancellor Olaf Scholz dismissed the notion that the country was split on the issue, vowing to be the chancellor for both the vaccinated and the unvaccinated. Stolz added that the latter should be persuaded to get the Covid-19 vaccine, saying that he "would still like to convince them that vaccinations make sense."