Hundreds of thousands of people, including the Federal Chancellor and the Foreign Minister, took to the streets against the AfD at the weekend. The protest action, held in cities across Germany, was against the revealed plans of the extreme right-wing party AfD to deport refugees and even citizens of foreign origin if it gets into power. The deportation plans were discussed at a meeting of radical right-wing networks in Potsdam, a city where the genocidal plans of the Nazis against the Jews were hatched more than 8 decades ago. Germans are not taking the coincidence lightly and are reacting to the AfD’s plans with popular rejection
Federal Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) and Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock (Greens) joined thousands of people in Potsdam on Sunday to set an example against the far right.
“I am standing here as one of thousands of Potsdam residents who are standing up for democracy and against old and new fascism,” Baerbock told the German Press Agency. The Chancellor also lives in the city, which is the state capital of Brandenburg, and, like Baerbock, has his constituency there. According to the organiser, Lord Mayor Mike Schubert, there were 10,000 participants in Potsdam.
Thousands also demonstrated against right-wing extremism in front of the Brandenburg Gate and around the Bundestag in Berlin on Sunday. The organisers of the large demonstration spoke of 350,000 participants, although only 1,000 were registered.
“Together against the right”, an alliance of various groups, activists from the climate movement, trade unions and cultural institutions, called for the protest in Berlin.
Representatives of Fridays for Future, the protest platform Campact, the sea rescue organisation Sea-Watch and Diakonie spoke at the rally, which was an attempt to put the perspective of discriminated people centre stage, said Samira Ghandour, spokesperson for Fridays for Future Berlin. It was great to see how many people were already taking to the streets against the right, she said.
In Saarbrücken, around 5,000 people took part in a demonstration against right-wing extremism, according to the police.
In Munich, the organisers broke off a demonstration against the right with at least 80,000 people due to overcrowding on Sunday. A police spokesman said the safety of the participants could no longer be guaranteed. The organisers even spoke of 250,000 demonstrators. A similar demonstration had been broken up in Hamburg on Friday also due to overcrowding.
On 10 January, the media organisation Correctiv had published its findings on the infamous meeting in Potsdam. Individual AfD functionaries as well as individual members of the CDU and the arch-conservative Werteunion were present at the gathering, which took place last November.
“High-ranking AfD politicians, neo-Nazis and financially strong entrepreneurs came together in a hotel near Potsdam in November. They planned nothing less than the expulsion of millions of people from Germany,” Correctiv reported.
The former head of the far-right Identitarian movement in Austria, Martin Sellner, confirmed to the German Press Agency that he had spoken there about “remigration”. When right-wing extremists use the term, they usually mean that a large number of people of foreign origin should leave the country – even by force. According to Correctiv’s research, Sellner named three target groups: Asylum seekers, foreigners with the right to stay and “non-assimilated citizens”; that is, citizens of foreign origin.
Since then, and again last weekend, hundreds of thousands of people have taken to the streets in support of democracy and peacefully protested against the far right across the country.
North Rhine-Westphalia’s Minister President Hendrik Wüst (CDU) told the “Tagesspiegel am Sonntag” that the meeting in Potsdam with individual AfD officials had shown that the second largest opposition party in the Bundestag was not a protest party. He made it clear, as he had done a few months ago, “The AfD is a dangerous Nazi party.”
Green Party leader Omid Nouripour called for consequences. “If people meet to plan a coup or the deportation of millions of people, then they must be prosecuted under criminal law,” he told Die Welt. The task of all democrats is to clearly name the AfD as an “enemy of our democracy, our economy, our society”, he said.
The AfD is fueling polarization in Germany and it’s profiting from it going by its high approval ratings. The far-right party is leading in opinion polls in the eastern German states of Saxony, Thuringia and Brandenburg, where state elections are taking place in September.
Speakers at the Berlin rally criticised the deportation policy of the federal government as it’s not a good sign that it’s fighting the extreme right agenda, which has always called for the mass deportation of rejected asylum-seekers and refugees.
Adopting the policy positions of the far right would only make them more popular and normalize such positions, said the speakers.
“Government must stop adopting populist positions on issues such as on asylum and refugees,” a speaker said.
Speakers called for a massive turnout at the European elections on 9 May to push back the right-wing extremists and ensure a resounding defeat of the AfD.