Authorities in Germany were bracing for further street protests in coming days after more than a 1,000 demonstrators in Berlin flouted Germany’s month-old coronavirus lockdown. More than 100 people were detained and faced charges of assault, battery, bodily injury and resisting arrest at Saturday’s demonstration, in what was the biggest protest yet against the government’s sweeping Covid-19 restrictions that also outlaw such large public gatherings. Nearly 300 police, many wearing protective face masks and riot gear, tried to keep the demonstrators physically separated from each other in accordance with the country’s strict anti-coronavirus regulations. They clashed at times with a small handful of the more unruly demonstrators who had mingled among the mass of mostly peaceful participants in front of the Volksbuhne theatre at Berlin’s Rosa-Luxemburg-Platz square in eastern Berlin. The protests – illegal because there was no advance permission granted and because gatherings of more than 20 are verboten – were a harbinger of potential trouble that could rock Berlin on Friday when the traditional May Day rallies that take place each year on May 1 sometimes erupt into leftist violence. Police are bracing for trouble in low-income central district quarters such as Kreuzberg even though demonstrations are banned this year. Germany eyes some normality after bringing coronavirus outbreak ‘under control’ Demonstrations against lockdown measures have also taken place in parts of the United States , fuelled by President Donald Trump’s tacit support for protesters on Twitter. Unsettling images have emerged showing armed men wearing military-style uniforms, with their faces covered, at protests in Michigan and New Hampshire. Berlin’s strict social distancing rules have been in place since March 23 and gatherings of more than two people in public are forbidden. It was the fourth consecutive Saturday that the demonstration took place in front of the famous east Berlin theatre – which condemned the rally and said it had nothing to do with it. But it was by far the largest protest calling for a restoration of civil liberties so far after local officials agreed to allow small protests of up to 20 people in a city with a strong tradition for allowing all kinds of protests as evidenced by the fact that it authorised about 5,000 demonstrations each year in recent years. There were also similar but smaller protests in Stuttgart and Greifswald. Bill Gates hopes his coronavirus vaccine ‘manufacturing within a year’ There have also been a number of small, brief, peaceful, low-key demonstrations in other towns and cities across the country where small groups of about a dozen or parents have silently protested with placards the continued closing of preschool daycare centres – all the while standing more than two metres apart. The demonstrators in Berlin came from a range of eclectic groups – from both the far-right and far-left, as well conspiracy theorists, ordinary citizens fed up with the state’s restrictions on their freedoms as well as a two women carrying placards simply reading: “Mothers for freedom and basic rights”. “I’m simply exercising my right to move around and assemble wherever I well please and it’s entirely my decision – not anyone else’s,” said one woman who did not give her name. Another woman nearby held a sign reading: “Protect Constitutional rights” while a young man held up a sign: “I want my life back”. Some have taken aim at American billionaire Bill Gates, a regular target of anti-vaxxers and conspiracy theorists who believe he will profit from the pandemic. At times the protesters used the freedom chant that East Germans shouted at rallies during the 1989 peaceful revolution against the Communist regime: “Wir sind das Volk” (We are the people). “In a democracy, restrictions like this need to be re-evaluated all the time and the government has to ask itself: are these restrictions still needed. But I don’t see that happening at all,” said one man who did not identify himself. One man wearing a full face mask held a sign reading: “Freedom – what I think and what I say is determined by me and me alone”. He was later carried away after skirmishing with a group of police officers. Police used loudspeakers to urge the protesters to disperse and warn them that they were violating the law with their “criminal act”. Five police officers were slightly injured in the skirmishes with protesters, police said. “Some people have accused us of being a ‘police state’,” said Berlin police spokesman Thilo Cablitz. “That’s not the case here at all. The only thing we’re concerned with is that the infection protection laws are obeyed and that infection risks are minimised. That’s what’s going to save lives.” Bow ties to face masks: German firms shift gears in coronavirus crisis Chancellor Angela Merkel, who grew up behind the Iron Curtain in Communist East Germany, has said she was loathe to limit the freedom of movement in Germany – the most restrictive since World War II – but it was temporary and in the interest of public health. With more than 157,100 people infected by the Covid-19 pandemic, Germany has the fifth highest number of cases in the world after the United States, Spain, Italy and France. But thanks to early and aggressive social distancing rules and tight restrictions that shut down much of its economy, widespread testing and a highly regarded public health care system, Germany has managed to keep its case-fatality-rate far lower than in many other countries with 5,884 people in Germany dying from it.