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    QAnon has become a powerful force in Germany, helping to drive Europe’s biggest anti-lockdown movement

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    QAnon has become a powerful force in Germany, helping to drive Europe’s biggest anti-lockdown movement

    germany anti lockdown protest

    A demonstrator wrapped in a flag of the German empire joins an anti-lockdown demonstration, in Berlin, Germany, on August 29, 2020.

    John MacDougall/AFP via Getty Images


    • Since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, Germany has seen a growing anti-lockdown movement which has become one of the largest in Europe.
    • The protesters are an eclectic mix of people, including conspiracy theorists, far-right extremists, coronavirus skeptics, and anti-vaxxers. 
    • Many of the protests have been organized by the controversial “Querdenken 711” group, which has been backed by President John F. Kennedy’s nephew and anti-vaxxer Robert F. Kennedy Jr.
    • Experts worry that the protests are becoming increasingly radical as more demonstrators openly identify with the conspiracy movement, QAnon.
    • Photos show how Germany became the epicenter of Europe’s anti-lockdown movement.
    • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

    In recent months, Germany has become the epicenter of Europe’s anti-lockdown movement, as thousands of people have been taking to the streets to defy social distancing measures and mask mandates.

    The anti-lockdown protesters, who include conspiracy theorists, far-right extremists, anti-vaxxers, and coronavirus skeptics, have united to accuse German lawmakers of triggering unnecessary panic and infringing on civil liberties.

    Many of the recent protests have been organized by the “Querdenken 711” movement, which has also been backed by Robert F. Kennedy Jr., a prominent anti-vaxxer and the nephew of former president John F. Kennedy.

    Experts also worry that the movement is becoming increasingly radical. Most of QAnon’s European followers are largely based in Germany, and more demonstrators at anti-lockdown protests are seen waving Q flags.

    QAnon advocates claim that the US is secretly controlled by a cabal of politicians, celebrities, and media figures who engage in child abuse and pedophilia and that President Donald Trump will eventually move against these people. Its believers seek clues from an unknown government insider known as Q. There is no evidence to support the theory, and none of its foretold reckonings have taken place.

    Scroll down to find out more about how Germany became the epicenter of Europe’s anti-lockdown movement and how QAnon played a role.

    Over the last few months, Germany has seen a growing anti-lockdown movement which has become one of the largest in Europe.

    germany anti lockdown protest Riot police and water cannons stand guard during protests next to the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, Germany on November 18, 2020.

    Maja Hitij/Getty Images


    This week, Berlin saw more than 10,000 protesters rally in front of the Reichstag — Germany’s parliament — in defiance of social distancing measures and mask orders.

    GettyImages 1229664528 Participants stand in front of the Brandenburg Gate during a demonstration against the coronavirus restrictions of the German government in Berlin on November 18, 2020.

    Christoph Soeder/picture alliance via Getty Images


    Source: BBC

    Police used water cannons to disperse the protester and several arrests were made.

    GettyImages 1229669890 (2) Police officers forced back demonstrators in front of the Brandenburg Gate with water cannons in Berlin, Germany on November 18, 2020.

    Fabian Sommer/picture alliance via Getty Images


    Source: BBC

    German anti-lockdown protesters include conspiracy theorists, far-right extremists, anti-vaxxers, esotericists, coronavirus skeptics, and ordinary citizens who say the threat of the pandemic is exagerated.

    germany anti lockdown protest A demonstrator holds a sign reading “5G, this is a war” during protests in Berlin, Germany on November 18, 2020.

    Maja Hitij/Getty Images


    Source: Business Insider

    Although these diverse groups have drastically different world views, they have united to accuse German lawmakers of triggering unnecessary panic, calling the COVID-19 measures “dictatorial.”

    germany anti lockdown protest A demonstrator holds a Christian cross during the protest in Berlin, Germany, on November 18, 2020.

    Michele Tantussi/Getty Images


    Source: Business Insider, The Left Berlin

    While the movement claims it’s “neither right nor left”, it does not condemn fascism and racism and has welcomed neo-Nazis and members of the far-right political party, AfD.

    querdenken germany coronavirus Counter-demonstrators block a street to protest against the Querdenken movement on November 14, 2020, in Frankfurt, Germany.

    Thomas Lohnes/Getty Images


    Source: The Left Berlin

    Recent demonstrations have been organized by the “Querdenken 711” group, which translates into “Lateral Thinking 711” and was first launched in Stuttgart (the city’s phone code is 711) in mid-April.

    querdenken germany coronavirus A demonstrator wears a toilet paper roll instead of a protective face mask and another a shirt with an inscription reading “Querdenken – Leipzig” during a protest on November 18, 2020, near the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin.

    Odd Andersen/AFP via Getty Images


    Source: The Daily Beast

    It was founded by a 46-year-old computer entrepreneur called Michael Ballweg who claims on his website that the group is “non-partisan” and does “not exclude any opinion.”

    Michael Ballweg Michael Ballweg, initiator of “Querdenken 711”, speaks at a rally in Berlin on August 1, 2020.

    Sebastian Gollnow/picture alliance via Getty Images


    Source: Michael Ballweg

    However, Ballweg’s slogan about the unity of the group is: “Where we go one, we go all,” lifted directly from the conspiracy theory QAnon.

    germany anti-lockdown protest qanon Mostly right-wing protesters, including a young woman wearing a QAnon shirt, observe riot police clearing Unter den Linden avenue during protests against coronavirus-related restrictions and government policy on August 29, 2020, in Berlin, Germany.

    Sean Gallup/Getty Images


    Source: The Left Berlin

    “I was astonished that QAnon is gaining such momentum here,” Patrick Sensburg, a lawmaker in Angela Merkel’s conservative party, recently said.”It seemed like such an American thing. But it’s falling on fertile ground.”

    germany anti-lockdown protest qanon A demonstrator holds a QAnon flag during protests on November 18, 2020, in Berlin, Germany.

    Maja Hitij/Getty Images


    Source: New York Times

    But it’s not just Germany that is worrying political leaders. Other European domestic intelligence and law-enforcement services, including those in France and Belgium, now also consider the QAnon conspiracy theory a significant security concern.

    GettyImages 1229669423 Police intervene in demonstrators defying social distancing and mask orders as thousands gather near the German parliament to protest coronavirus restrictions in Berlin on November 18, 2020.

    Abdulhamid Hosbas/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images


    Source: Business Insider

    One prominent American figure who has also openly endorsed “Querdenken 711” is Robert F. Kennedy Jr., who is the nephew of former President John F. Kennedy.

    Robert F. Kennedy Jr. Robert F. Kennedy Jr. arrives at the 10th Annual GO Campaign Gala at Manuela on November 5, 2016, in Los Angeles, California.

    Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic


    Kennedy is an anti-vaxxer who owns an organization called Children’s Health Defense, which promotes the idea that Bill Gates has a “globalist” agenda for mandatory vaccinations.

    The 66-year-old also once insisted that top US infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci seeks to poison “an entire generation of Americans” with a COVID-19 vaccine, The Daily Beast reported.

    Source: The Daily Beast

    Kennedy even spoke during one of the movement’s rallies in Berlin alongside Ballweg. According to some reports, his appearance prompted German QAnon Telegram channels to go into a frenzy.

    Robert F. Kennedy Jr. Robert F. Kennedy Jr. (C), greets people during an anti-lockdown protest in Berlin, Germany as Michael Ballweg (L), founder of the Querdenker movement, looks on, on August 29, 2020.

    Sean Gallup/Getty Images


    Source: The Daily Beast

    Another outspoken figure in the movement is Heiko Schöning, who is a founder of the anti-vaccination group Ärzte für Aufklärung (“Doctors for Enlightenment”) and is also a regular speaker at Querdenken events.

    Heiko Schöning Heiko Schöning, doctor and member of the initiative “Doctors for Enlightenment”, speaks at a demonstration on May 3, 2020, in Hamburg, Germany.

    Markus Scholz/picture alliance via Getty Images


    Schöning was arrested in London in September after he appeared at an anti-lockdown protest in Trafalgar Square.

    Source: Mayor of London, NDR

    A partial lockdown has been in place across Germany since November 2 and lawmakers are discussing extending the lockdown until Christmas.

    germany coronavirus A man stands in front of a closed Christmas tree decorations stall at the canceled annual Christmas in Essen, Germany on November 12, 2020.

    Andreas Rentz/Getty Images


    Government spokesman Stefan Seibert said lockdown measures “were not expected to be relaxed” and that winter festivities were unlikely to go ahead, the Guardian reported.

    Source: The Guardian

    Germany has previously been praised for its handling of the pandemic and some experts believe that its success is partly to blame for the rise in protests.

    coronavirus germany protest A man protests against the government’s restrictions following the coronavirus outbreak in front of the Reichstag, in Berlin, Germany, on May 23, 2020.

    Christian Mang/Reuters


    “Virologists say there is no glory in prevention; if prevention is successful, people don’t see the danger,” Thorsten Quandt, a professor at the University of Münster, told CNN in September. “The irony is the less you can feel it, and more successful you are with pandemic measures, the more people say we should stop [those measures].”

    Source: Business Insider

    Even though there is a growing movement against the COVID-19 lockdown, the majority of Germans are still in support of it.

    germany anti lockdown protest Demonstrators confront riot police during protests next to the Reichstag in Berlin, Germany, on November 18, 2020.

    Sean Gallup/Getty Images


    In a recent national survey, more than 58% said that the lockdown measures were just right.

    Polls also show that trust in Merkel’s conservative government is high, while the far-right party known as AfD, has been struggling, the New York Times reported.

    Source: Forschungsgruppe Wahlen

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