Once a week Police Chief Peter Oechsler becomes BW EH MA 1. It says on the back of his protective vest and means Baden-Württemberg, Operational Hundreds Mannheim 1. It indicates that Oechsler is leading a group of a hundred or so armored police officers who have to go out into the street, when it gets rough there.

This has been the case in Mannheim almost every Monday evening for a month and a half.

Then opponents of the Corona measures gather in the city and protest against politics and the state with a severity that Oechsler and his colleagues have never known before.

Morten Freidel

Editor in the politics of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sunday newspaper

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The police officers can see who they are dealing with from the letters on Oechsler's protective vest.

The hard core of the demonstrators only see it as a symbol of an authority that they hate.

Before Christmas, lateral thinkers met more and more often in Germany without registering their rallies, they called themselves "walkers".

Police officers were spat on, pelted with lighters, attacked and injured;

in Mannheim alone, two dozen in the first two protest marches.

Some fell badly as the crowd tried to break through a police cordon.

Others dislocated their shoulders.

You can read where the wind is blowing in the Telegram chat service, where many demonstrators exchange ideas.

The police call them "enemies".

Some believe the killing of two officers in Kusel this week was staged to enforce tougher gun laws.

The posts are dripping with malice.

They leave no doubt: for the lateral thinkers, the police officers are the main opponents.

And since they are often the only thing they notice about the system they hate, they take all their anger out on them.

Like an attraction at Disneyland

Also on Monday, critics of the measures run through downtown Mannheim again.

But there is a difference to earlier demonstrations: this one is registered.

The city of Mannheim banned all unannounced gatherings, there were too many people without masks, too much violence.

It is early evening, Oechsler and his team are standing on the market square, over which an icy wind is blowing.

Oechsler appealed to the folders from the ranks of the demonstrators.

"The police are not your opponents," he says, and that you shouldn't be surprised if things come to a standstill.

At the end he wishes them “good luck”.

Some nod in agreement.

Then it starts, past kebab shops and Turkish hairdressers that line up here.

Some customers have stepped outside and filmed the protest with amazement as if it were a Disneyland attraction.

Oechsler speaks into his microphone: "The mask rate is currently 95 percent.

German flags are being waved and calls for freedom are being sung.” So far everything is fine.

The demonstrators are now walking along "the Planken", Mannheim's shopping street.

A month ago there was a commotion here.

Despite the ban on unannounced protests, hundreds had gathered.

The police were on duty with three hundreds, plus traffic police officers and a loudspeaker van, even with dogs to keep the troublemakers at a distance.

The officers formed a chain and asked everyone to go home.

Finally, they recorded their personal details.

At least they tried.

Oechsler was right at the front, initially everything went according to plan.

A few onlookers gathered behind him, who looked like shoppers.

Suddenly, to Oechsler's astonishment, the demonstrators shouted "Peace, freedom, self-determination!" Not only in front of him, but also behind him.