Worrying number of attacks on the press by Querdenker demonstrators

Worrying number of attacks on the press by Querdenker demonstrators
Journalists covering Querdenker protests have faced attacks (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images).

Peaceful Assembly

Querdenker protests banned in Saxony

Following the newly introduced COVID-19 measures to tackle the spread of the Omicron variant in Germany, which include vaccination for children and the possibility that vaccination will become compulsory in the country, thousands have protested across Germany during the month of December 2021. Following the increasing number of demonstrations and rising tensions, police decided to shut down every protest organised by the “lateral thinkers” movement in Saxony, where the group is very strong and where some of their demonstrations in the past months turned violent.

Driver dangerously approaches Extinction Rebellion protesters:

On 8th January 2022, around 15 protesters from the environmentalist group Extinction Rebellion gathered in Bergerdorf. Their action of civil disobedience consisted of blocking the traffic on the B5 by walking for some minutes in the street while holding banners. While they were blocking the road, a person driving a Land Rover suddenly drove towards the protesters, approaching one of the banners. The two activists holding the banner were able to jump aside just in time and avoid being hit by the car. One of the two was reportedly injured in the shoulder but was able to continue demonstrating later. The driver drove off undeterred. The police did not intervene in time and the driver managed to flee. However, the police took the licence plate number of the car and began an investigation into "dangerous interference in road traffic and bodily harm".

Arrests at climate crisis related protest

On 24th January 2022, a civil disobedience protest was staged by activists from the Last Generation Uprising, who are calling for a food-saving law and an agricultural turnaround as part of tackling the climate crisis. The group reports that 25 people were arrested at various blockades.

Expression

Several attacks on journalists were documented during Querdenker demonstrations against COVID-19 measures.

  • On 4th December 2021 during a non-authorised demonstration organised by the Querdenker movement in Berlin, journalist Julius Geiler - who works for Der Tagesspiegel - was physically attacked by a group of neo-Nazis. The attack came when the group noticed that Geiler was filming them while they were discussing a possible attack on the regional manager of dju (the German Journalists Union, part of the verdi), Jörg Reichel. One attacker attempted to flee the scene with the journalist’s phone, but he was stopped and arrested by the police, who are now investigating attempted theft. The attacker was identified as a right-wing extremist. Additionally, two other freelance journalists who intervened to stop the attack were also hit with fists. They are considering filing charges. One of the freelance journalists, Aaron Karasek, was also hit by a demonstrator the following day, 5th December 2021, during another Querdenker rally against COVID-19 measures which was organised in Munich.
  • On 10th December, during a Querdenker protest against COVID-19 measures gathering around 100 protesters in Dresden, two freelance photojournalists working for Vue Critique reported that some demonstrators harassed them, threatened them with a glass bottle and punched their cameras. One journalist was also dragged by his arm. The police intervened only an hour and a half later, which was strongly criticised, as they failed to protect the journalists. The police admitted their lack of attention and announced that the Dresden Police Department would follow up internally on the episode.
  • On 12th December 2021, three freelance photojournalists working for Vue Critique and Pixel_Roulette were physically attacked during a Querdenker protest against COVID-19 measures in Bennewitz. At around 8 PM the journalists had to stop covering the protest as the attacks from the demonstrators made it impossible for them to continue safely. In fact, the journalists were hit and punched by a group of protesters. The police told the journalists that they were unable to protect them during the rally and invited them to leave the protest.
  • On 13th December 2021, during a demonstration against COVID-19 measures by the Querdenker in Wetzlar, a group of neo-Nazis who joined the demonstration harassed journalist Joachim Schaefer, promising a “demonstrative visit” to his house. During the same demonstration, another journalist from the same youth video group as Schaefer, “hessencam”, was physically attacked by two right-wing extremists, who grabbed his phone out of the tripod and threw the journalist to the ground. The neo-Nazi groups involved in both incidents were “NPD” and “The III. Path”.
  • On 22nd December 2021 a freelance photojournalist was hit with a baton by a police officer during a Querdenker demonstration against COVID-19 measures in Munich. The demonstration was not registered, but about 5,000 demonstrators participated. The photojournalist was attempting to leave the police chain because he was followed by a demonstrator, when a police officer hit him on his right wrist with a baton, although he was carrying his press card.
  • On 22nd December, freelance journalist Berthold Stamm was insulted and threatened by members of a Telegram group (Das-Sind-Wir-Olpe) which consists of conspiracy theorists, anti-vaxxers and neo-Nazis, where his picture was shared. The freelancer was the target of hate speech due to his coverage of Querdenker demonstrations against COVID-19-measures in the small town of Olpe. The police have started an investigation.