Thousands expected at new protests against far right in Germany

Thousands expected at new protests against far right in Germany

BERLIN (AFP): Tens of thousands of people were expected to turn out again across Germany on Sunday to protest against the far-right AfD, after it emerged that party members discussed mass deportation plans at a meeting of extremists.

Some 250,000 demonstrators already gathered in cities across the country on Saturday, according to estimates by public broadcaster ARD, with protesters carrying signs such as “Nazis out”.

Demonstrations were called in around 100 locations across Germany from Friday through the weekend, including in Munich and Berlin on Sunday.

Some 25,000 people were expected at the rally against the far right in Munich, while another 10,000 were set to join a protest in Cologne, according to ARD.

Protesters are also set to gather in front of the German parliament in Berlin, and in cities in the east where the AfD has its strongholds.

The wave of mobilisation against the far-right party was sparked by a January 10 report by investigative outlet Correctiv, which revealed that AfD members had discussed the expulsion of immigrants and “non-assimilated citizens” at a meeting with extremists.

Among the participants at the talks was Martin Sellner, a leader of Austria’s Identitarian Movement, which subscribes to the “great replacement” conspiracy theory that claims there is a plot by non-white migrants to replace Europe’s “native” white population.

‘Take a stand’

News of the gathering sent shockwaves across Germany at a time when the AfD is soaring in opinion polls, just months ahead of three major regional elections in eastern Germany where their support is strongest.

The anti-immigration party confirmed the presence of its members at the meeting, but has denied taking on the “remigration” project championed by Sellner.

Not only politicians, but church leaders and Bundesliga football managers have called on people to make a stand against the far right.

Chancellor Olaf Scholz, who joined a demonstration last weekend, said any plan to expel immigrants or citizens alike amounted to “an attack against our democracy, and in turn, on all of us”.

He urged “all to take a stand — for cohesion, for tolerance, for our democratic Germany”.

Interior Minister Nancy Faeser went so far as to say in the newspapers of the Funke press group that the far-right meeting was reminiscent of “the horrible Wannsee conference”, where the Nazis planned the extermination of European Jews in 1942.

‘Huge uncertainty’

The protests against the far right could “restore trust in democratic conduct”, Josef Schuster, the head of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, told broadcaster Welt TV.

Jews in the country had felt “huge uncertainty” added to by a wave of anti-Semitic incidents following the start of the Israel Hamas war, Schuster said.

Protesters first gathered last weekend in Berlin and Potsdam, where the extremist meeting was held, and have gathered pace since.

On Saturday, around 35,000 people gathered in the centre of Frankfurt, responding to the call to “defend democracy” against the AfD.

“Demonstrating against racism is a must,” protester Maria told AFP in Frankfurt.

“Germany has developed in such a way that racism occurs everywhere in Germany,” she said.