German extremists will hijack May 1 protests to demand end to lockdown

Fringe protesters in Germany are planning rallies against the coronavirus lockdown today under cover of traditional May 1 workers' demonstrations.  

While the usual left-wing protesters have vowed to observe social distancing, others are plotting a 'hygiene demo' which typically attracts conspiracy theorists and anti-vaxxers who scorn the lockdown measures. 

Extremists from left and right have attended the rallies and declared a 'democratic resistance' to the lockdown. 

Berlin is set to deploy 5,000 police officers to enforce the lockdown rules amid fears that the protests will cause a surge in infections. 

In Paris, where May 1 protests usually attract thousands, police were arresting rogue demonstrators today after the events were cancelled because of the virus. 

Unions have encouraged people to chant from their windows and balconies but French authorities are bracing for wildcat demonstrations. 

Elsewhere,  is also struggling to maintain order after some regions lost patience with the central government and began opening bars and restaurants ahead of schedule.  

Police in riot gear arrest a person for violating social distancing rules at a protest last night in Berlin's Friedrichshain district, an annual hotspot for pre-May Day activities

Police in riot gear arrest a person for violating social distancing rules at a protest last night in Berlin's Friedrichshain district, an annual hotspot for pre-May Day activities 

People light flares from the balcony of a house in Berlin's Friedrichshain district last night, ahead of May 1 protests today

People light flares from the balcony of a house in Berlin's Friedrichshain district last night, ahead of May 1 protests today 

A woman holding a protest sign is arrested by French police in Paris today as the country braces for wildcat demonstrations

A woman holding a protest sign is arrested by French police in Paris today as the country braces for wildcat demonstrations

In Berlin, state interior minister Andreas Geisel said this week that 'May 1 must not become another Ischgl', referring to an Austrian ski resort which became a hotbed of infections earlier this year.   

'I don't want demonstrations to lead to health dangers... the police will be firmly implementing the rules,' he warned.

The city's radical left groups, whose demonstration is usually the focal point of May 1 festivities, have changed their strategy this year to avoid the risk of infection. 

Although they have promised to 'flood the streets with anti-racist, anti-patriarchal and anti-capitalist content', the organisers have also urged demonstrators to keep their distance from one another and cover their nose and mouth. 

'We take the protective measures seriously... and will act responsibly,' they said in an online statement. 

However, protesters at the 'hygiene demos' in Berlin and around the country may not take such precautions.   

The 'democratic resistance' has been gathering at Berlin's Rosa Luxemburg Platz since the end of March in a weekly rally against the lockdown. 

The protesters, who include anti-vaccine conspiracy theorists, claim that the restrictions are an illegal attempt to curtail civil liberties by an authoritarian state. 

A person is arrested for flouting social distancing rules in Berlin last night ahead of demonstrations today which will see 5,000 police deployed

A person is arrested for flouting social distancing rules in Berlin last night ahead of demonstrations today which will see 5,000 police deployed

A demonstrator wears a mask at a previous protest at the Rosa Luxemburg Platz in Berlin, where protesters are planning a 'hygiene demo' today

A demonstrator wears a mask at a previous protest at the Rosa Luxemburg Platz in Berlin, where protesters are planning a 'hygiene demo' today 

Germany's daily number of new infections, shown on this graph, has fallen from its peak but crept up again in recent days, rising to 1,639 today

Germany's daily number of new infections, shown on this graph, has fallen from its peak but crept up again in recent days, rising to 1,639 today

This chart shows the number of daily deaths in Germany, which has never reached the same unwanted heights as in Italy, Spain or the UK

This chart shows the number of daily deaths in Germany, which has never reached the same unwanted heights as in , Spain or the UK

Organisers play down the dangers of coronavirus, which has killed nearly 6,500 people in Germany, and call for an end to the restrictions.   

Their last demonstration on April 25 saw around 100 people arrested for ignoring a ban on public

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