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Berliners form socially-distanced human chain against racism

The capital's human chain was slated to stretch from the world-famous Brandenburg Gate past the landmark Communist-era TV tower at Alexanderplatz and down into the ethnically diverse Neukoelln district.

A protester holds a poster that reads 'Racism kills' as she takes part in a demonstration organised by the '#unteilbar' (indivisible) movement on 14 June 2020 in Berlin. Civil society activists called participants to form a human chain across the city in order to set a sign for an anti-racist, social, and climate just society. Picture: AFP.

BERLIN - Thousands demonstrated in Berlin against racism and for broader fairness, including sharing the coronavirus burden, as they stretched a human chain through the German capital Sunday while keeping safe distances.

Although the German Weather Service (DWD) issued a storm warning for a swathe of the country, people also turned out in other cities like Leipzig and Hamburg after a nationwide appeal from progressive movement Unteilbar (Indivisible).

"Now we will decide whether we manage to put ourselves on the path to an anti-racist society of social and climate justice," tweeted Canan Bayram, Greens party MP for Berlin's lively central Kreuzberg district.

The capital's human chain was slated to stretch from the world-famous Brandenburg Gate past the landmark Communist-era TV tower at Alexanderplatz and down into the ethnically diverse Neukoelln district.

Organisers had registered 5,000 people to show up, while police said they were prepared for up to 20,000.

Over 10,000 people gathered in Berlin under the banner of Black Lives Matter last weekend in response to the 25 May killing of African-American George Floyd in Minneapolis, and the slogan was also in evidence on banners and T-shirts Sunday.

But the organisers of the latest demonstration posted a broader set of aims on their website.

'RESPONSIBLE' PROTEST

Their demands include better working conditions and pay for all including migrants, affordable housing, upholding asylum rights, relaunching the economy along green lines and allowing workers more say in how companies are run.

"Who bears the costs of the global crisis, who will be stronger afterwards and who weaker - that's being decided now," Unteilbar organisers wrote.

A map posted online showed how different groups had been allocated responsibility for different sections of the Berlin human chain.

They ranged from political parties like the Greens and Left party to civil society groups like "Grannies against the far right" and the Fridays for Future youth climate movement.

On their website, Unteilbar organisers urged sticking to "a responsible form of protest in times of pandemic and crisis", telling participants to remain three metres apart to minimise the risk of coronavirus transmission.

As the human chain got underway, stewards handed out strips of brightly coloured tape cut to the right length as a guide.

"We have to stand strong against racism, exclusion and discrimination. But at the weekend and in the weeks ahead, we have to be considerate and take care of one another" by minimising virus transmission, Berlin mayor Michael Mueller told the Tagesspiegel newspaper ahead of the demonstration.Download the EWN app to your iOS or Android device.