German intelligence places coronavirus protesters under observation – media

FILE PHOTO: Police use water cannons during a protest against the government’s coronavirus disease (COVID-19) restrictions, next to the Brandenburger Gate, in Berlin, November, 18, 2020. REUTERS/Christian Mang

BERLIN (Reuters) – German intelligence has for the first time placed under observation a group of protesters against the government’s coronavirus restrictions, media reports said, following warnings about far-right extremists’ growing influence in the movement.

The domestic intelligence service in the southwestern state of Baden-Wuerttemberg has made the group called “Querdenken 711” subject to observation, Spiegel magazine reported on Wednesday, citing security sources.

“Querdenken 711” was founded in the affluent city of Stuttgart and is seen as the origin of a movement promoting protest rallies across the country.

Spiegel said security authorities were especially alarmed about calls by protesters for a large rally in Berlin on New Year’s Eve, which is being promoted in the far-right Reichsbuerger movement.

Members of the Reichsbuerger (Citizens of the Reich) do not recognise modern-day Germany as a legitimate state, and insist the former, far larger “Deutsches Reich” is still alive despite Nazi Germany’s defeat in World War Two.

Last month, police fired water cannon and pepper spray in an effort to scatter thousands of protesters in Berlin angry about coronavirus restrictions.

Although most Germans accept the latest “lockdown light” imposed in November to curb a second wave of the pandemic, critics say the measures endanger citizens’ civil rights.

Germany reported a record number of 590 dead in connection with the coronavirus on Wednesday, taking the total death toll to 19,932.

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