The German government on Sunday slammed the unacceptable behaviour of protesters during a mass rally against coronavirus restrictions in which hundreds were arrested and an attempt was made to storm the Reichstag parliament building.
The Reichstag is the symbolic centre of our democracy, Interior Minister Horst Seehofer told Sunday's edition of the Bild newspaper.
It is unacceptable to see extremists and trouble-makers use it for their own ends.
Police said some 38,000 people, double the number expected, had gathered in Berlin on Saturday to protest restrictions imposed to curb the spread of the coronavirus, such as the wearing of masks and social distancing.
Late Saturday, several hundred protesters broke through barriers and a police cordon to climb the steps leading to the entrance to the Reichstag. They were narrowly prevented from entering the building by police, who used pepper spray and arrested several people.
Police initially appeared overwhelmed, as only a handful of officers were there to block the crowd.
We cannot be present everywhere and it is precisely these weaknesses in the deployment that were exploited, in this case to cross the security barriers in order to reach the steps of the Reichstag, said local police spokesman Thilo Cablitz.
Images of the incident at the iconic building shocked Germany. The Reichstag, where German deputies meet, has a powerful symbolic role in the country.
The building, with its famous dome, was burnt down by the Nazis in 1933 in an act aimed at destroying what remained of German democracy between the two world wars.
Plurality of opinions is a characteristic of the good functioning of society, said Seehofer. But freedom of assembly reaches its limits when public rules are trampled on.
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