Car hits gate outside German leader's offices; minor damage

BERLIN (AP) — A car crashed into the front gate of the building housing German Chancellor Angela Merkel's offices on Wednesday morning, causing minor damage, authorities said. The driver was detained.

Police were investigating the 10 a.m. (0900 GMT; 4 a.m. EST) crash at the German chancellery in Berlin.

The car, a Volkswagen station wagon, had the slogan “You damned murderers of children and old people” scrawled in white paint on one side. On the other it said “stop the globalization policies.”

Police spokesman Thilo Cablitz told reporters the 54-year-old driver was detained at the scene after driving at a slow speed into the gate and was being questioned. He said police were investigating whether he might be psychologically disturbed or had other motivations.

Merkel's office said there was only minor damage to the security gate.

“For the chancellor, other members of the federal government, and the people employed in the chancellery there was no danger at any time,” her office said.

The car had license plates from the Lippe area in western Germany and was driven away by the Berlin fire department showing little sign of damage beyond a few scratches. The metal gate to the chancellery appeared slightly bent.

The chancellery sits in downtown Berlin next to the Swiss Embassy and across from parliamentary offices. The exterior gate that was hit, which is next to a security office outside the main building, opens onto a public street.

There was no immediate indication of what prompted the incident, but it came on the day that Merkel was to meet with state governors to talk about extending a partial coronavirus shutdown that started on Nov. 2.

The government's approach toward slowing the coronavirus pandemic and the restrictions enjoy widespread support among most Germans but they have also prompted occasionally violent protests in some major cities.

The incident was reminiscent of a strikingly similar case in 2014 when a nearly identical car drove at slow speeds into the same gate, causing no damage. The car carried a slogan condemning climate change and a 48-year-old man was taken into custody.

Reports at the time said the man had done something similar before.

It wasn't immediately clear, however, whether the 2014 incident was related to the one on Wednesday.

Cablitz refused to comment on a possible connection, citing Germany's strict privacy laws, but said police were investigating the suspect's past.

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