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POLICE have been condemned for brutality after attacking a peaceful demonstraton in the capital Berlin with pepper spray after communist groups gathered for the annual commemoration of Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht.
Some 3,000 people attended Sunday’s annual march despite coronavirus restrictions; the official ceremony has been delayed until March by the German parliament’s Die Linke party.
Police held the march at the capital’s Frankfurter Tor for more than an hour, warning the group over the display of Free German Youth (FDJ) flags, which they insisted was prohibited. But organisers highlighted that FDJ flags had been displayed on a march as recently as October, with no intervention from the German authorities.
The issue of the ban is not straightforward. While some regional governments have imposed a ban on the flag associated with the former East Germany, the Berlin authorities have not, and there is no federal legislation outlawing its display.
Authorities insisted that the flags were removed from the demonstration and warned those gathered to adhere to social distancing rules, which protesters insisted they did — but were squeezed closer together by officers.
Police swooped, using pepper spray, and were accused of violently attacking protesters, including a 14-year-old child and a wheelchair user who, a witness said, was dragged along the pavement by officers. The protesters, however, stood their ground and continued the march despite the police hindrance.
The FDJ hit out at Berlin police, saying that the force attacked not only its organisation but, with it, “all left, revolutionary and anti-fascist forces.”
German Communist Party (DKP) chairman Patrik Kobele told the Junge Welt newspaper that all those participating in Sunday’s event adhered to coronavirus measures, with most of those present wearing protective face masks.
“It is remarkable that the Berlin police did not intervene in the past weeks and months when so-called corona deniers did not adhere to any measures to protect against infection and when even the ‘Hitler salute’ was shown under the eyes of the officers on Alexanderplatz in Berlin,” he said.
Mr Kobele said the defiant stance showed that “one can, and must, fight, even under pandemic conditions.”
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