Large crowds of demonstrators broke out in German cities, amid demonstrations demanding a ban on sex The far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party Gain momentum.
Tens of thousands have already braved sub-zero temperatures this week to protest against the party, after it emerged that senior AfD members had discussed a plan to deport migrants en masse in revelations that have been compared to the Nazi era.
German newspaper Der Spiegel reported that crowds of up to 35,000 gathered in Frankfurt on Saturday under the slogan “Defending Democracy – Frankfurt against the AfD,” while a similar number of people turned out in the northern city of Hanover.
Large crowds were also seen in Stuttgart, Dortmund and Nuremberg.
In a video message released on Friday evening, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz welcomed the weekend protests as “good and right.”
He added that he was trying to imagine “how more than 20 million citizens with a history of immigration feel” about deportation plans.
Protests involving up to 30,000 people have already taken place in cities including Berlin, Leipzig, Rostock, Essen and Cologne. Protesters gathered outside the capital's red-brick city hall on Wednesday, carrying signs reading “Nazis out” and chanting slogans against far-right politician Björn Höcke.
People are angered by reports that senior AfD members discussed a “master plan” for the mass deportation of German asylum seekers and German citizens of foreign origin during a meeting late last year.
People hold a sign reading: “Never again now! You have to do your own anti-fascism” in Erfurt on Saturday.
People protested in Frankfurt on Saturday carrying a banner that read, “Never again 1933!”
Members of the AfD, neo-Nazis and other right-wing extremists gathered at a lakeside hotel outside Potsdam on November 25.
The matter only came to light on January 10, when the investigative journalism network Correctiv exposed the meeting, sparking a wave of protests across Germany.
“The events that will take place today at the Landhaus Adlon will look like a dystopian drama,” Korktev wrote in his report revealing the private meeting. Only they are real.
“And they will show what can happen when far-right thinkers, AfD representatives and wealthy sympathizers come together.”
“The meeting was supposed to remain secret at all costs,” the report said.
The AfD denies that such plans are part of its policy, and the AfD leadership has sought to distance itself from the rally, describing it as a “private event and not an AfD event.”
Alice Weidel, co-chair of the party, announced on Monday that she had parted ways with her advisor Roland Hartwig, who participated in the talks, according to Correctiv. The AfD told CNN that the two “separated by mutual agreement.”
However, the idea of a “mass deportation plan” was publicly supported by an AfD representative in the state of Brandenburg.
“We will return foreigners to their homeland,” Rene Springer wrote on his X account. Millions of times. This is not a secret plan. It's a promise.
“For more security. For more justice. To preserve our identity. For Germany.”
Many have pointed out that the mass deportation plan evokes memories of the Nazi era from 1933 to 1945, when millions were transported against their will to concentration camps, forced labor and extermination.
“The plans to expel millions of people are reminiscent of the darkest chapter in German history,” Christian Dürr, leader of the parliamentary group of the neoliberal Free Democrats, wrote on X.
Rika von Geerke, a party spokeswoman and activist preparing for a demonstration in Frankfurt on Saturday, told CNN that the AfD's plans “bring back terrible memories.”
“Yesterday I saw a sign that said ‘Now is the time to show what we would have done instead of our ancestors.'”
“There are similarities. It is definitely time to take a stand against the right and start opposing anti-democratic forces.”
She added that AfD members were “making concrete plans to deport millions of people from Germany.” “We clearly see these plans as inhumane and an attack on our democracy, the rule of law, and on many of our citizens.”
Kazen Apache, a protest organizer from Hamburg, told CNN that the demonstrations are important “because we are dealing with very strong right-wing extremism and neo-Nazi networks in Germany.”
He continued: “This meeting in Potsdam showed once again how urgent it is to not just talk about politicians, but to send a strong signal from the middle of society to defend democracy and our state.”
Sebastian Christoph Gollno/Image Alliance/DPA/Getty Images
Chancellor Schulz and Foreign Minister Baerbock were photographed at the “Potsdam defends itself” demonstrations.
Asked if he thought the protests would encourage people to stop voting for the AfD, Abasi expressed optimism. “There is a core group of AfD voters who vote for the AfD out of conviction, but there are of course also voters who voted for the AfD out of protest.
But now is the time for them to wake up and realize that we are not dealing with a protest party, but with a far-right party. Our gathering can help these people finally wake up.
The marches in Potsdam on Sunday were attended by German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock.
Baerbock said she was there as someone who “defends democracy and against old and new fascism,” while Schulz this week thanked protesters for taking to the streets “against racism and hate speech and in favor of our liberal democracy.”
Paving the way for a ban on the AfD could be difficult and risk backfire. This week, German politicians discussed the possibility of asking the Constitutional Court to implement the ban.
The German constitution stipulates that parties that seek to undermine the “free democratic basic order” must be considered unconstitutional.
German Vice Chancellor Robert Habeck told Stern magazine, “The damage that a failed attempt could cause would be enormous.”
“That's why, if a case is filed, it should 100% be filed in court. It's something you have to think about very carefully,” he adds.
Many see the public backlash against the AfD as crucial, as the far-right party has recently enjoyed record levels of polling and is expected to make significant gains in regional elections in the eastern states of Thuringia, Saxony and Brandenburg this year.
According to a recent study published by the opinion research institute Forsa, the AfD is currently polling at more than 30% in the three states – comfortably higher than its rivals.
Nadine Schmidt wrote from Berlin and Sophie Tanno wrote in London.
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