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Activists in Germany rise up to stand against vaccine skeptics

New counter-protesters have emerged across Germany in support of the government’s pandemic limitations and a universal vaccine mandate, which will be considered for the first time in German parliament on Wednesday.

Manifestos against anti-vaccine demonstrations have been signed by tens of thousands in cities such as Leipzig, Bautzen, and Freiberg. Others have created human chains to push back far-right protestors in Oldenburg and Rottweil, and hundreds of medical students recently conducted a silent vigil outside a Dresden hospital to oppose a rally of far-right vaccine doubters.

The silent majority in Germany, who have obediently reduced their social contacts, gotten vaccinated, and kept an eye on each other for nearly two years to protect themselves and the most vulnerable from COVID-19, appears to be fed up with the small but vocal minority of coronavirus deniers.

Anti-vaccine protesters in Germany are not all outright deniers of the pandemic; some are simply concerned about vaccine side effects or believe that the country’s health authorities have been overly aggressive. Far-right radicals, on the other hand, have attempted to capture the protest movement for their own objectives.

The new counter-protesters believe that the radical vaccine refusers have gotten too much media attention and have too much sway over public debate in Germany about how to handle a pandemic.

This week, even Germany’s president urged the country’s silent majority to speak up and defend the country’s democracy.

“Majority status isn’t enough. The majority must establish a political identity. It can’t back down. At a panel in Berlin on Monday, President Frank-Walter Steinmeier stated, “The silent centre must become more visible, more self-assured, and also louder.”

Stephan Thiel, a theatre director, said he was hesitant to attend Monday’s rally in front of Gethsemane Church because he didn’t want to mix with too many people because of the rapidly spreading virus. At the same time, he felt compelled to voice his opinion.

“Because of the virus, a lot of sensible people are staying at home.” Being here is also problematic for me. However, we must be present,” he remarked, speaking through a black anti-virus mask. “We need to demonstrate that we are here and that they do not represent the majority.” And I’m hoping that as time goes on, more and more people will show up.”

Thiel, 51, grew up in a communist country. He recalls how weekly rallies by millions of East Germans brought down the dictatorship in 1989. He was particularly offended by anti-vaccine protesters’ attempt to capitalise on the Gethsemane Church’s symbolism as a well-known meeting place for opponents of the Communist regime, he said.

The pro-vaccine campaigners’ appeal to action comes at a time when Germany’s society may become even more fragmented as parliament debates a universal COVID-19 vaccine mandate. Those divisions cut across party lines on that issue. The coalition government has delegated the task of drafting cross-party suggestions on whether a mandate should exist and how it should be structured to lawmakers.

At least 73.5 percent of Germany’s 83 million citizens have already been properly vaccinated, with 50.8 percent receiving a booster dose.


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