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Over 10,000 people marched through Stuttgart to protest lockdown rules at an unexpectedly large rally by the so-called "Querdenker" (lateral thinkers) movement in Germany.
Police launched an investigation against organizers of the "Querdenker" (lateral thinkers) march in Stuttgart for violating anti-pandemic measures during the Saturday rally. The authorities also arrested one man on suspicion of beating up a reporter, while a TV crew was forced to end their live report after protesters started pelting them with stones.
While some 2,500 people were expected to join the rally, police estimated that over 10,000 ended up taking part. The protesters demanded an immediate end to lockdown measures, which they see as a violation of their human rights.
Police warned that any violations of the anti-pandemic orders would be documented.
"I see 20 people wearing masks, and they are the police," said police spokesman Stefan Keilbach.
The "Querdenker" movement has been holding rallies since the early stages of the pandemic last year.Far-right groups have also endorsed the events, which are often followed by violent clashes or attacks on media crews.
Reporting from the scene, DW's Benjamin Alvarez Gruber that many of the speakers were also "attacking the press" over the media coverage of the pandemic.
"They say the effects of the lockdown… are way worse than the effect of the virus."
He also noted that only reporters and police officers were wearing masks, and that protesters did not maintain social distance.
"Despite that, police did not intervene," he added.
The latest incident involving attacks on the media prompted anger from the head of DJV journalists' union, Frank Überall, who accused the police of "doing nothing to protect our colleagues."
Germany's Finance Minister Olaf Scholz, who also serves as vice-chancellor, also slammed the incident as a "cowardly attack on press freedom."
"It is bad enough that thousands protested at the streets of Stuttgart with no masks and without social distancing, they are now attacking journalists too," he wrote on Twitter.
dj/aw (AFP, dpa)