Crowd control

WATCH: Out-gay Health Minister cuts speech short after crowd yells “gay pig!”

Jens Span via Wikimedia Commons

Jens Spahn, the openly gay Health Minister of Germany, faced spitting and shouting of homophobic slurs during a press conference earlier this week. Protesters disparaged Spahn over his mandated restrictions during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Spahn had traveled to the city of Bergisch Gladbach to deliver remarks concerning COVID-19. Much like the United States, Germany has suffered from violent protests staged by alt-right denialists who claim that COVID-19 doesn’t exist, or who refuse to wear masks to stop the spread of the disease. As the Health Minister stood outside to deliver an update, he found his remarks drowned out by protesters whistling, shouting “gay pig” and “shame.” Spahn finally cut his remarks short due to the protest, and left the scene.

Related: Antigay lawmaker compares himself to “Jews in Nazi Germany” as he chainsaws a mask in half

Of the confrontation, Spahn later told the Rheinische Post that shouting and spitting are not productive. “A dialogue must be ensured between officials and coronavirus deniers,” Spahn told the newspaper.But it only works if both sides are willing to listen. When people shout, spit and insult each other, it just doesn’t work.”

“We have to seek conversation and dialogue with those who are dissatisfied with our Corona policy,” Spahn added, noting that he’d planned the press conference to offer dialogue with protesters. “We only stay together as a society when we talk to one another.”

The incident with Jens Spahn also follows a series of protests in Berlin over the weekend, in which protesters gathered en masse to challenge ongoing restrictions related to COVID-19. Perhaps it goes without saying, but many of the protesters refused to wear masks.

“It was profoundly disloyal and also unpatriotic not to wear masks, not to maintain a distance and thus to endanger others,” Spahn said of the protesters. “It is right that the police intervene when too many demonstrators in Berlin apparently did not care about the freedom and health of their own fellow citizens.”

At the time of this writing, Germany has documented 246,893 cases of COVID-19. More than 9,000 people have died of the virus.

Jens Spahn first entered public life in 1999 when he won a seat in Germany’s parliament. He ascended to his current role as Health Minister in 2018 and, despite the protests, has earned wide praise in Germany for his handling of the coronavirus crisis. He came out publicly as gay in 2012 and married his husband, journalist Daniel Funke, in 2017.