BERLIN (AP) - German security officials are considering banning protests this week outside the federal parliament by people opposed to coronavirus lockdown measures over fears a rally could turn violent.
The unusual move comes amid concerns that extremist groups could try to use a rally initially planned for Wednesday to attack the Bundestag, echoing an unsuccessful attempt to storm the parliament building during a similar demonstration in August.
According to an email sent to German lawmakers Tuesday by a parliamentary security official, a risk assessment by Berlin state police "has given rise to the expectation ... that attacks on the Bundestag building and on persons" are to be expected if the protest goes ahead.
"The (Interior) Ministry will therefore, with the agreement of the speaker of the Bundestag, likely refuse to permit" protests from taking place within a specially designated zone around the parliament building, the official, Frank Grussendorf, said in his email, a copy of which was obtained by The Associated Press.
Lawmakers are due to vote Wednesday on a bill that will provide the legal underpinning for social distancing rules, requirements to wear masks in public and the closure of stores. While such measures, designed to stop the spread of COVID-19, are supported by most people in Germany, a vocal minority has staged regular rallies around the country arguing that the restrictions are unconstitutional.
In the email, Grussendorf said that gatherings outside the special security perimeter around parliament will be permitted.
German lawmakers have in recent days been subjected to a flood of emails, apparently automatically generated by protesters, that have clogged inboxes and slowed IT systems to a crawl.