A car rammed the gates to Angela Merkel’s chancellery complex in Berlin on Wednesday morning in an apparent political protest.
A Volkswagen estate with the slogans “You damned murderers of children and old people” and “Stop globalisation policy” daubed on the sides was driven into a gate on the north side of the complex. There were no immediate reports of injuries, and police said they did not suspect a terror attack. The driver was taken into custody.
According to initial reports the same car crashed into the same gate in 2014 with the slogans “No more human-killing climate change” and “Nicole, I love you,” painted on the sides.
It appears Ms Merkel and ministers were not at any risk during Wednesday’s incident, which took place during the weekly German cabinet meeting. The gate rammed by the car is some distance from the main chancellery offices, beside a separate building which houses security checks for staff and visitors.
Damage to both the gate and the car was minimal, suggesting it was driven at slow speed. The chancellery, a white post-modernist building opposite the Reichstag building that houses Germany's parliament, is set well back from any main roads.
“Today at around 10am, a car drove into the entrance gate of the Federal Chancellery,” a spokesman for the German government said. “There was little property damage. At no point in time was there any danger to the Chancellor, members of the federal government or staff at the federal chancellery.”
Berlin police said they were investigating whether the car was driven into the gate intentionally, but did not suspect an extremist attack. "We are not working on the basis of this assumption at the moment," a spokesman said.
The driver, who was taken into custody at the scene, is a disabled wheelchair user, according to eyewitness accounts. It is not clear if he was the same man involved in the 2014 incident. At that time, a 48-year-old was held by police.
Wednesday’s incident came hours before Ms Merkel was due to hold video conference talks with regional leaders on extending the coronavirus lockdown in Germany. It was not clear if there was any link, but Berlin has witnessed largescale protests by coronavirus sceptics in recent months.
There are concerns over safety at government offices in Berlin after hundreds of violent far-right protestors almost succeeded in forcing their way into the parliament building during coronavirus demonstrations in August.
Protestors were banned from the area around the parliament and chancellery at the most recent demonstrations last week, but many ignored the rules and had to be forcibly moved on by police.
A handful of protestors managed to gain access to parliament where they harassed MPs on their way to a debate on lockdown measures. They are believed to have been smuggled in by members of the far-right Alternative for Germany party (AfD).