Berlin police broke up a protest of roughly 1,000 people that had been banned by authorities in the German capital at short notice. Several other demonstrations, some permitted, others not, took place around Germany.
According to the Deutsche Welle, in the German capital, Berlin, police appealed online for people not to come to a planned „vigil” for people in Gaza at Potsdamer Platz in the city centre, explaining that it had been prohibited „because in this case, it is a replacement-event for an already banned demonstration. „
In a later update, the police explained that the restriction was due to the growing number of participants with flags and pro-Palestinian symbols at the gathering, planned initially as a vigil. „As a result of the considerable number of people with pro-Palestinian symbols arriving, the replacement event was forbidden even before it had formally begun.”
The roughly 1,000 attendees initially refused to leave the area but soon became compliant. Nevertheless, images from the scene appeared to show at least isolated incidents of police using force.
In Germany, police and courts of different cities responded distinctly to celebratory protests and demonstrations that broke out spontaneously among Palestinians immediately after the October 7 Hamas terror attacks on Israel.
After a demonstration in the Berlin district of Neukölln, Berlin authorities banned further gatherings out of fear of continued expression. In Frankfurt, after a pro-Palestinian demonstration was prohibited on Saturday by local courts, other demonstrations were also forbidden.
Nevertheless, protests continued to be allowed in Cologne and Düsseldorf. In Cologne, a regional court overturned a ban on a pro-Palestinian demonstration after a last-minute appeal by the organiser, a member of a Palestinian community group in the city. Police had initially argued that it would be taking place too close to a pro-Israel demonstration at the city’s central Heumarkt square, thus presenting an increased security risk, an argument the court didn’t accept. In the end, no issues were reported between the two groups.
In Düsseldorf, a „Free Palestine” demonstration was officially declared for 50 participants on Saturday afternoon. According to local police, around 700 people turned up, but no incidents were reported.
In Germany, the issue of pro-Palestinian demonstrations following the Hamas attack has been particularly sensitive and met with a relatively hard line by politicians of all stripes, all of them stressing the sensitivity of the issue in post-war Germany.
Deputy Chancellor Robert Habeck promised in his speech addressed to Israelis that „we stand at your side, and we have forgotten nothing,” referring to the „never again” phrase associated with the lessons of the Holocaust and other genocides and Germany’s role in the Holocaust.
Habeck went on to effectively appeal to people in Germany to keep this in mind if they are planning to show their support for the Palestinian cause in public, adding that he finds it shameful that so many people in Berlin and around the world celebrate terror, „rejoicing in the murder of Jews.”
Since the Hamas attacks last weekend, Jews in Germany report feeling concerned for their safety, and police protection of Jewish institutions has been increased. Interior minister Nancy Faeser addressed Jews and reassured them that „the message is more important than ever: we stand firmly by your side! We will do everything to protect you,” adding that the government will „use all legal means to deport Hamas supporters.”
Photo credit: Michael Kuenne/PRESSCOV/ZUMA/picture alliance