German parliament investigates harassment during virus vote
BERLIN (AP) — German parliamentary officials are investigating how people protesting against government lockdown measures were able to enter the Bundestag building and harangue lawmakers before a crucial vote.
Senior lawmakers met Thursday to examine allegations that deputies from the far-right Alternative for Germany, or AfD, party used their credential to help a small number of protesters get through security.
Video posted on social media showed a female protester accusing Economy Minister Peter Altmaier of having “no conscience” and insulting him. Altmaier said Thursday that he had shrugged off the incident, but was sad that other lawmakers had also been harassed.
The incident happened as thousands of people protested parliament’s passing of a bill providing legal underpinning for the government to issue social distancing rules, require masks in public and to close stores and other venues to slow the spread of the coronavirus. Berlin police used water cannons and pepper spray to disperse protesters after they defied orders to wear masks.
Police said more than 10,000 people took part in multiple demonstrations, some of whom attacked officers with bottles, stones and firecrackers and also tried to pull off their protective helmets and shoot pepper spray in their faces. Overall, 77 officers were injured and 365 people were arrested, police said.
The AfD, which opposed the bill, said it regretted the behavior of some of its guests, but denied that the party had intentionally invited people to disrupt parliamentary proceedings.
However, a lawmaker from the center-left Social Democrats, Carsten Schneider, said there was evidence the incident was part of an orchestrated stunt by AfD and called for sanctions against two party lawmakers allegedly involved.