Thousands of demonstrators gathered in Berlin on Saturday to protest against what they perceive as Israel’s “genocide” in Gaza. The demonstration took place under heavy restrictions, as local authorities have recently lifted a blanket ban on pro-Palestine rallies.
According to the DPA press agency, around 6,000 people participated in the march, although leftist groups involved in organizing the rally claimed that the number was five times higher. Video footage captured by RT showed crowds brandishing Palestinian flags and placards with messages such as “stop the genocide,” “how many kids have to die?” and “ceasefire now.”
The ban on pro-Palestine demonstrations in Berlin and other German cities was imposed in response to the Israel-Hamas conflict. Several unauthorized protests were held in Berlin, leading to violence, with 65 police officers injured and 174 protesters arrested in late October.
Now, the ban has been partially relaxed, allowing for authorized demonstrations. However, expressions of support for Hamas or other militant groups, as well as slogans considered anti-Semitic or anti-Israel, are strictly prohibited at these officially sanctioned rallies. German federal law also prohibits the glorification of violence and the burning of the Israeli flag.
In a further move, German Interior Minister Nancy Faeser recently announced a ban on all pro-Hamas activities and dissolved the German branch of Samidoun, a group that organizes pro-Palestine rallies in Europe and the US. Faeser accused Samidoun of celebrating when Hamas militants attacked Israel on October 7.
Nevertheless, this crackdown has faced criticism from a group of more than 100 German Jewish intellectuals. In an open letter last month, the group accused the police of using anti-Semitism as an excuse to suppress legitimate and non-violent political expression, including criticism of Israel.
The rally held in Berlin on Saturday was peaceful, with only one arrest reported, involving a woman who allegedly attacked a journalist.
Similar protests were held in other European cities, with thousands of people gathering in Paris and London. In London, police cleared a group of demonstrators who had blocked a traffic intersection at Oxford Circus. During the afternoon, a total of 11 people were arrested, one of whom was allegedly carrying a placard promoting hatred.
In defiance of a ban on pro-Palestinian protests in Paris, thousands of demonstrators took to the streets, chanting slogans such as “Israel assassin, Macron accomplice.” This refers to French President Emmanuel Macron’s offer to send troops to fight against Hamas.
The pro-Palestine rallies in Berlin, Paris, and London demonstrate the strong emotions and international concern generated by the ongoing conflict in the Middle East. These protests represent a push for peace, an end to violence, and a call for a ceasefire between Israel and Palestine. While the protests were largely peaceful, the restrictions imposed by the authorities reflect the complexities involved in striking a balance between the right to free expression and the need to maintain public order.