Extremism: Protests again: Large anti-AfD demo has begun

The demonstrations against right-wing extremism and for democracy continue in numerous places over the weekend.

Extremism: Protests again: Large anti-AfD demo has begun

The demonstrations against right-wing extremism and for democracy continue in numerous places over the weekend. A large demonstration against right-wing extremism has already begun in Düsseldorf.

The first part with the opening rally and march across the Rhine has the motto "Against the AfD - We are not silent. We do not look away. We act!". Afterwards, a final rally is planned on the Rheinwiesen, the largest inner-city meeting place. The motto here is: "Never again is now! For democracy and the rule of law!" A police spokeswoman said the demonstration was “strongly attended”. The organizers spoke of many thousands of participants even before it began.

The list of speakers at the final rally in the afternoon includes, among others, the Deputy Prime Minister of North Rhine-Westphalia, Mona Neubaur (Greens) and the Mayor of Düsseldorf, Stephan Keller (CDU). The organizers are the cross-party alliance “Düsseldorfer Appell”, the DGB and “Düsseldorf stands across”. Düsseldorf professional sports clubs such as second division football team Fortuna Düsseldorf also called for participation.

Also demos in other places

A total of around 30 rallies against right-wing extremism are planned in North Rhine-Westphalia. The actions are a response to research by the media collective Correctiv, which revealed that radical right-wing circles met with AfD officials and a leading head of the right-wing extremist Identitarian Movement in Potsdam in November 2023.

Larger events are also planned in Aachen, Mannheim and Marburg, among others. In Osnabrück, Defense Minister Boris Pistorius (SPD) wants to take to the streets - in Wittenberg, Saxony-Anhalt's Prime Minister Reiner Haseloff (CDU). There are also demonstrations on Sunday, for example in Hamburg.

Significantly more than 10,000 people demonstrated on Kiel's town hall square. As the organizer of the rally for democracy and solidarity, the German Federation of Trade Unions counted more than 15,000 participants; the police said there were 11,500 people.

Prime Minister Kretschmann there

In Baden-Württemberg, the Baden-Württemberg Prime Minister Winfried Kretschmann (Greens) is among the participants. He took part in a demonstration in Sigmaringen as a private individual with his wife Gerlinde. According to the police, the event was peaceful with around 2,000 people. Many families were at the protest. Posters read, among other things: “Ekelhafd” or “Voting right is 1939”.

On Friday, thousands of people again took to the streets against the right in several cities. There were protests in Frankfurt am Main, Saarbrücken, Herne and Gütersloh.

According to the Federal Ministry of the Interior, more than 900,000 people took part in anti-right-wing demonstrations last weekend. It relied on police information. Today's demonstrations coincide with Holocaust Remembrance Day, when numerous events commemorate the victims of National Socialism.

Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier was pleased about the demonstrations, but called for continued commitment to democracy. "I'm happy about it and grateful that the democratic middle of society has woken up," said Steinmeier to the SWR capital studio. These people would prove that the vociferous despisers of democracy are not in the majority: "That can make Democrats self-confident and a little proud."

Steinmeier: Demos do not replace political engagement

However, these demonstrations cannot replace political engagement, said Steinmeier when asked what would happen next with the protests. His request to those who are dissatisfied is to get off the sofa and get actively involved in the community. Democracy depends on the commitment of its citizens. In no country are there such good opportunities for this as in Germany. To achieve this, people who take on political responsibility, especially at the local level, must be shown more respect, warned Steinmeier.

Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) also welcomed the numerous demonstrations against right-wing extremism in the last few days and weeks. "Our country is currently on its feet. Millions of citizens are taking to the streets," he said in his weekly video "Chancellor Compact". It is the solidarity of the democrats that makes democracy strong. "Our democracy is not God-given. It is man-made. It is strong when we support it. And it needs us when it is attacked."

The protests were triggered by revelations by the Correctiv research center about a meeting of radical right-wingers on November 25th, in which some AfD politicians as well as individual members of the CDU and the very conservative Values ​​Union took part in Potsdam. The former head of the right-wing extremist Identitarian Movement in Austria, Martin Sellner, said he spoke about “remigration” at the meeting. When right-wing extremists use the term, they usually mean that large numbers of people of foreign origin should leave the country - even under duress. According to Correctiv, Sellner named three target groups: asylum seekers, foreigners with the right to remain - and "non-assimilated citizens."

State elections in the East - AfD strongest force?

New state parliaments will be elected in September in Brandenburg, Saxony and Thuringia. According to surveys, the AfD could become the strongest force in all three countries, even by a significant margin. In two nationwide surveys conducted last week by the institutes Insa and Forsa (for “Bild” and for RTL/ntv), the AfD lost popularity, but it remained the second strongest force after the Union. In Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt and Thuringia, the AfD is assessed as definitely right-wing extremist by the respective Office for the Protection of the Constitution, and nationwide it is classified as a suspected case.

The domestic policy spokesman for the Union parliamentary group in the Bundestag, Alexander Throm, warned that the impact of the protests on potential voters should not be overestimated. From his point of view, it is important that we deal politically with the AfD and its ideas and that extremist activities are not given a chance, the CDU politician told the “Rheinische Post”. "This can only be achieved successfully with a federal government policy that takes the concerns and needs of citizens seriously and does not continue to pour fuel on the fire of frustration out of sheer ignorance."