On a bitterly cold Monday afternoon, four days into the New Year, a small band of protesters commenced their weekly campaign against the Robert Koch Institute. They blared a steady stream of rock music at the organization’s stately red-brick building, which stands in stark contrast to its surroundings in the working-class Wedding district of Berlin.
Every few minutes, they paused to deliver speeches accusing the scientists inside of deliberately manipulating data in support of the German government’s approach to the global coronavirus pandemic.
The demonstrators present were part of the Berlin chapter of the Querdenken movement. Roughly translating to “lateral thinking,” Querdenken emerged in April, just weeks into Germany’s first lockdown, and has grown rapidly. Its adherents are united in the belief that federal COVID-19 restrictions are wildly disproportionate and part of a broader plan to strip citizens of their basic rights and freedoms.