Thursday, January 20, 2022

Corona demo in Dresden surrounded medical students – police defended the operation

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On the sidelines of a demonstration by opponents of vaccination, the police also broke up a counter-protest by medical students. Rules apply to everyone, say the Saxon officials. But the criticism is great.

22 students from the Technical University of Dresden have been targeted by the police – and are now at the center of a debate about the Saxon law enforcement officers. During a procession of opponents of vaccination, the students stood protectively in front of the university hospital and called on the other side to get vaccinated with posters. The police then encircled them, stopped the action and initiated administrative offense proceedings.

A scandal? The actions of the police are discussed controversially in Saxony, but the emergency services also defend themselves vehemently.

The reason for the large-scale operation was not originally the students. Up to 2,000 people took to the streets in Dresden on Thursday evening during a so-called walk against corona measures. This was called for on social networks, including by the “Free Saxony” group, which the Office for the Protection of the Constitution classified as a right-wing extremist effort. The police prevented the elevator with a large contingent, also because only demonstrations with a maximum of ten participants are currently permitted in the state.

This rule later proved to be the undoing of the students as well: As pictures from the dpa news agency show, they formed up in white doctor’s coats in front of the hospital premises. In the evening, some of them were then surrounded by the police, reported the “Tagesspiegel”. The reason given by the police: They violated the Saxon Corona Ordinance and the Assembly Act.

A participant in a Corona demo stands in front of counter-demonstrators: The students received a lot of encouragement for the campaign.  (Source: dpa/Sebastian Kahnert)A participant in a Corona demo stands in front of counter-demonstrators: The students received a lot of encouragement for the campaign. (Source: Sebastian Kahnert/dpa)

However, several students told the “Tagesspiegel” that they had been given another reason for the encirclement: their uniforms. Some police officers are said to have disturbed the white doctor’s coats, as they would violate the ban on wearing uniforms at demonstrations. However, the press office denied this accusation, according to the “Tagesspiegel”.

The domestic policy spokesman for the Greens in the state parliament, Valentin Lippmann, called the behavior of the police “hardly communicable and a fatal signal to all committed democrats”. He further explained: “The action of the medical students, who symbolically protected the university hospital, was an important sign of the civil society protest against the lateral thinking elevators.”

A police spokesman defended himself against the criticism: “Regardless of the political motivation, the police are bound by the law.” The officials were required to enforce the Corona Ordinance. The action was not reported and was inadmissible with more than ten people, it said.

Police President Jörg Kubiessa spoke of a successful operation. “We protected the clinic, prevented a planned central elevator and initiated over 200 administrative offense proceedings. (…) The question that is now being discussed in public is: Are there right and wrong rule violations? You can do that as a society discuss safely. Only this discussion is not suitable as a basis for action for my colleagues on the street – especially not in such dynamic operations.”

He also wishes that meetings will be displayed in the future. However, this statement by the President is in contrast to the statements made by the participating students. They told the “Tagesspiegel” that the action was spontaneously registered on site. There may have been a problem with the officials’ collusion, leading to the assumption that the protest was unannounced.

In addition to the criticism of the Saxon police, the students also received a lot of encouragement on social networks – including from politicians.

Prime Minister Michael Kretschmer (CDU) tweeted on Friday: “A clear and important statement by the students of @Medizin_TUD” and added “Thank you!” behind. He also posted a picture of the action on Thursday evening. The budding physicians experienced every day that “it is not the measures against the virus that are the problem, but the virus itself,” wrote Kretschmer.

Civil courage is “definitely the right signal to show a clear edge against the current corona protests,” said Interior Minister Roland Wöller (CDU) of the German Press Agency. “I would like to express my sincere thanks for that. At the moment, we in the Ministry of the Interior still have to examine exactly how the situation was for the officials on site in order to be able to finally assess the actions.” Wöller now wants to get in touch with the students and get their perspective.

But Wöller is also held responsible for the action. The head of the left-wing faction in the state parliament, Rico Gebhardt, criticized that the interior minister “cannot demand moral courage and then have cannons aimed at sparrows, while elsewhere those who really want to be a threat to democracy get away with it”.

Many users on Twitter also share criticism of the Minister of the Interior. The hashtag #WoellerReturn has been used several times since Thursday evening. “Please resign!” Writes one user, for example. Another also holds Kretschmer responsible: “Apparently there is anarchy within the CDU in Saxony: Michael Kretschmer supports the medical students’ demonstration, Roland Wöller has the police arrest them and file charges against them. At least one of the two can no longer be held. #WoellerResignation”.

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