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Berlin police break up floating 'party protest'

Rebecca Staudenmaier
June 1, 2020

A protest in support of Berlin's shuttered club scene was shut down after the event swelled into a massive party. Social distancing became increasingly difficult after hundreds of boats and over 1,500 people joined in.

Boats full of protesters in Berlin
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/V. Bruckmann

Over 100 officers were dispatched in the German capital after a protest to raise support for Berlin's club and rave scene turned into its own techno party, police said on Monday.

Organizers initially planned to have 100 participants participate in the floating protest on Sunday, which launched on the Spree River and turned down a canal towards the neighborhood of Kreuzberg.

But after the first boats launched, more and more joined in — eventually swelling to include a fleet of 300 to 400 boats, many of which were kayaks or rubber boats. 

Read more: How are Germany's coronavirus protests different?

People on the banks of the canal joined in as well, with some 1,500 people joining in by the time the boats came to a halt, police said in a statement. 

Local public broadcaster rbb reported that up to 3,000 people were involved.

Critique of party protest

Following talks with police, organizers ended the protest "due to distances not being maintained and due to complaints over loud music."

Police noted in their statement that organizers repeatedly called on participants to socially distance from one another.

Images of the party protest sparked criticism on Twitter, particularly due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Several Twitter users also pointed out that the protest eventually came to a stop right in front of one of the city's hospitals.

Read more: Opinion: Not all coronavirus critics are conspiracy theorists

Others also accused protesters of being tone deaf, as the demonstration took place at the same time as another protest in the German capital to show support for the anti-police brutality protests in the United States.

The Berlin Club Commission said the protest was not initiated by the commission but was organized by several individuals from the city's club scene who had "good intentions" but were surprised by the number of participants.

"In order to reduce the possible spread of infection, we ask that all demonstration participants limit their social contacts over the next 14 days — particularly those with contact to older or sick people," the commission said in a statement.

Although Germany has lifted restrictions on the number of people who can take part in protests, social distancing guidelines remain in place.

Berlin's infamous clubs have been closed for months due to the coronavirus pandemic, with many owners worried they might not be able to financially recover from the crisis.

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