Did police in Germany arrest YouTuber Dr. Andreas Noack for speaking out against the government's handling of the coronavirus pandemic? No, that's not true: Local police in the state of Bavaria confirmed that a raid took place, but said it was not directed at Noack. The chief prosecutor's office, the Generalstaatsanwaltschaft in Berlin, confirmed that the house search was part of an investigation into another person and that Noack's political views were irrelevant to the operation. Police had a search warrant for the whole building in which Noack rents an apartment. The YouTuber and two other individuals present during the raid were not arrested.
The claim appeared in a video post shared on Instagram on November 20, 2020, (archived here) with a text introduction that opened:
Shocking footage out of #Germany shows Doctor Andreas Noack being raided by armed police in the middle of a YouTube stream for apparently violating #coronavirus laws.
This is what the Instagram post looked like at the time of writing:
Rumors about a government crackdown on critics of Chancellor Angela Merkel's handling of the coronavirus pandemic spread online after Andreas Noack's YouTube live stream was interrupted in the evening hours of November 18, 2020, by heavily-armed police. Members of the Bavarian special forces USK and a plain-clothes officer can be seen storming the apartment and telling Noack and another person in the room to get on the floor and show their hands. They then asked their names before turning the camera off and ending the broadcast.
Click below to watch the video on YouTube:
The dramatic images as well the lack of context led several English-language alternative media outlets to speculate on the reasons for the raid. Quickly, a narrative emerged in which Noack was active in Germany's anti-lockdown movement and had offered medical assistance to protesters injured during demonstrations (e.g. here and here).
Others saw the raid as the first effect of the new Infection Protection Law which had been passed by the Bundestag, Germany's federal parliament, earlier the same day. The parliamentary session was accompanied by in some cases violent protests in Berlin's government district. Police used water canons to disperse protesters after the authorization for the protest was revoked because protesters defied official requirements by not social distancing nor wearing masks.
Germany's anti-lockdown protest movement is carried by a small but increasingly radical part of the populaton and unites an eclectic mix of anti-vaxxers, New Age conspiracy theorists and self-styled non-conformists using the moniker Querdenker (literally "lateral thinkers.") The protests are also heavily infiltrated by known Neo-Nazi groups and members of the Reichsbürger movement, self-proclaimed citizens of the Imperial Reich of 1918, who have a lot of ideologies in common with the Sovereign Citizen's movement in the United States. Protesters share a deep distrust of Angela Merkel's government and her expert advisors like the virologist Christian Drosten. The protests are fueled by a growing frustration with the restrictions put in place to curb the spread of the pandemic such as partial lockdowns, mask mandates and some travel restrictions.
Up until November 18, 2020, when the updated version of the Infection Protection Law was passed, Merkel and the heads of the 16 state governments enacted these restrictions by decree. The updated law regulates the role of the legislative branch of government in the measures. Now, the government has to report back to the Bundestag regularly to get approval for extensions of the measures. The update also newly adds § 28a, which explicitely lists the measures that can be taken and thus defines to what extent constitutional rights can be limited in the case of a pandemic. It is especially this paragraph which has riled up the critics of the law, who compare it to the Enabling Act of 1933, the law used by Adolf Hitler to strip parliament of all powers and to enact laws without legislative oversight. This comparison, widely denounced as incorrect and offensive across the political spectrum of democratic parties in Germany, is based on misinformation of what the law actually contains. Protesters falsely claimed that the passing of the law would make vaccines mandatory and allow police to search any house without a warrant.
None of these things are true, and none of them had anything to do with the police operation caught on the YouTube live stream. For one, Noack is not a medical doctor but holds a PhD in chemistry, so he was not in a position to offer medical assistance to injured protesters. Furthermore, Noack apparently did not even attend the protests in Berlin. He is located in Langenzenn, a small town in Bavaria roughly 300 miles south of the capital and was streaming from his apartment while the protests in Berlin were still ongoing.
Noack does not seem to play a prominent role in Germany's alternative media and anti-lockdown movement. He is a New Age Youtuber and former entrepreneur in the nutraceuticals industry who now runs a non-profit called Ursprunc e.V. whose stated purpose is to disseminate "new knowledge" and offer seminars on vaguely defined topics. These seminar come in the form of hours-long Zoom conferences broadcast live on YouTube, in which Noack lectures his listeners on a wide range of fringe beliefs: He is convinced that the SARS-CoV-2-pandemic is a hoax and part of a larger plan by a god-like Artificial Intelligence to depopulate the planet and enslave humanity. Noack also regularly references the World Economic Forum's lecture series The Great Reset as a communist plot to strip citizens of their assets. In his past business ventures, Noack also offered fee-based seminars on nutrition and nutraceuticals, in which he made pseudo-scientific claims on micronutrients and peddled unregulated supplements and treatments like monatomic gold.
Usually, Noack's videos receive only a few thousand clicks, but the police raid on his channel has already been viewed over 223,000 times. Social media users who watched as the events unfolded speculated that the operation was staged to attract new viewers to the channel. On November 20, 2020, local police in Middle Franconia replied on Twitter that the raid was real but had nothing to do with Noack.
Ja, der Polizeieinsatz fand statt. Er richtete sich jedoch nicht gegen den Betreiber des Streams. Zu den Hintergründen können wir keine weiteren Angaben machen. Ihr Social Media Team.-- Polizei Mittelfranken (@PolizeiMFR) November 20, 2020
The text translates as follows: "Yes, the police operation took place. However, it was not directed at the person who ran the stream. We cannot comment further on the background. Your Social Media Team."
The Generalstaatswaltschaft Berlin, who are in charge of the investigation that triggered the police operation, told Lead Stories on November 25, 2020 that they are still investigating in the case but that Noack was not being investigated. The spokesperson also dispelled rumours that this was a case of swatting and said they have no knowledge of a fraudulent use of emergency calls. As the investigation is still ongoing, no further details could be disclosed.
Noack reappeared on YouTube the next day, but did little to dispel the rumors surrounding the events. In this clip from his live stream (in German), he confirms that he had not been arrested. He claims police did not tell him why they raided the house but that he believes it was a case of psychological warfare and an attempt to intimidate him. He also mentions, however, that his friend who was present in another room of the apartment resisted the officers when they first attempted to enter the apartment, which would explain their relatively aggressive demeanor.
At the time of the raid, Germany had been in partial lockdown since the beginning of November, 2020. Bars, nightclubs and gyms are closed, restaurants are only allowed to offer take-out and gatherings in public and at home are limited to 10 people from no more than two households. Schools and childcare facilities remain open, as do all retail stores. The lockdown will be in place until December 20th of this year and is expected to be reinstated after the holidays.