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Bern Covid protest turns violent

Demonstrators gathered in front of the federal parliament building on Thursday evening Keystone / Peter Klaunzer

Police used a water cannon, rubber bullets and irritant spray to break up an illegal demonstration against coronavirus measures that turned violent in the Swiss capital Bern on Thursday night.

This content was published on September 17, 2021 - 09:53
Keystone-SDA/SRF/Bern cantonal police/ilj

“After several warnings from police, participants pushed against the barriers in front of the federal parliament building and attacked police and the emergency services, which meant that measures had to be taken,” a Bern cantonal police statementExternal link said.

One person was injured in a scuffle between groups of people, the statement added.

According to the Swiss news agency Keystone-SDA, an estimated 3,000-4,000 people gathered on the square in front of Bern main station at about 7.30pm on Thursday evening. They then moved through the city centre towards parliament.

Some participants then pushed against the protective barriers, shook them or tried to lift them up, before receiving warnings from police. Objects, as well as fireworks and firecrackers, were also thrown at officers and the emergency services, the statement said.

Police used a water cannon in parliament square Keystone / Peter Klaunzer

After this, police intervened. The city of Bern’s head of security Reto Nause said only a small amount of irritant was sprayed. The demonstration was broken up by around 10pm.

Further investigations into the incident and possible damage to property are ongoing, police said. 

On Friday, politicians criticised the violence outside the parliament building.

"I unreservedly condemn all acts of violence against people, private or public property," said Swiss President Guy Parmelin. "We must be clear: we have all the democratic instruments to assert our opinions."

The presidents of the House of Representatives and the Senate, Andreas Aebi and Alex Kuprecht, also condemned the violence on Thursday night.

“The behaviour of the violent demonstrators is not Swiss. We'll only defeat the virus if we're all part of the solution," they declared in a joint tweet.

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