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In Germany, the “silent majority” in the streets against the far right

Photo: Adam Berry Agence France-Presse This demonstrator did not go out of her way to express all the bad things she thinks of the AfD during a march organized last Sunday, near the Brandenburg Gate, in Berlin.

Isabelle Le Page – Agence France-Presse and Baptiste Huguet – Agence France-Presse in Berlin

2:06 p.m.

  • Europe

The awakening of civil society ? Thousands of people demonstrate across Germany against the far right accused of undermining democracy, with the Alternative for Germany (AfD) party in their sights, some of whom are calling for the ban.

From medium-sized towns to large metropolises, the mobilization is spreading, to the rhythm of several daily gatherings. Until Sunday, around a hundred demonstrations are still announced.

Trigger of the movement: the revelation on January 10 by the German investigative media Correctiv of a meeting in Potsdam, near Berlin, where, in November, a plan for mass expulsion of people of foreign origin was discussed.

Among the participants were a figure of the radical identity movement, the Austrian Martin Sellner, and members of the AfD.

The story shocked a country which seemed to have accepted as inevitable the surge in the polls of this formation hostile to migrants created 11 years ago.

This “scandalous meeting” revived “the fear of deportations of millions of citizens or non-citizens, a fear which is part of the critical legacy of National Socialism,” Hajo explains to AFP Funke, political scientist specializing in the extreme right.

A few days after these revelations, thousands of people demonstrated in Berlin and Potsdam, including the Social Democratic Chancellor, Olaf Scholz, and the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Annalena Baerbock. The organizers of these gatherings seemed to be the first to be surprised by the crowds.

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It seems to testify to a mobilization of this “silent majority” to which the president of the domestic intelligence services (BfV), Thomas Haldenwang, had recently called.

True face

“We cannot make the same mistake again, I find it terrible that we have learned nothing,” Amelie Schmerling, a 76-year-old retiree who demonstrated Friday in Hamburg (north) told AFP. ) among 30,000 people according to the police, 60,000 according to the organizers.

“I’m demonstrating for the first time in my life,” testified Simon Kay, a 29-year-old student, who hopes to “show that many of us support democracy.”

The AfD has taken advantage in recent months of the insecurity of the population resulting from a new influx of migrants into the country and the permanent quarrels between the three parties of the government coalition, against a backdrop of recession economy and high inflation.

This party “uses democratic structures but has antidemocratic ideas,” denounces Gesien Schaünemann, 67, also in the Hamburg rally.

Rejoicing these mobilizations, Olaf Scholz urged in a press release on Friday “everyone to take a stand – for cohesion, for tolerance, for our democratic Germany”.

The far-right party has firmly established itself in second position in voting intentions (around 22%) behind the conservatives.

In its strongholds in the former GDR, it even comes out on top with more than 30% in the three Länder of Thuringia, Saxony and Brandenburg, where regional elections are being held in September.< /p>

After the shock of 2017 which marked its entry into parliament, the AfD has integrated itself into the political landscape, even if all parties rule out allying with it.

Since the Potsdam meeting, “this normalization of the party is complete”, judges Mr. Funke, even if the party has said it does not endorse the “remigration” project presented by Martin Sellner.< /p>

The scandal revealed “the true face” of the party, said the co-leader of the SPD (Social Democratic Party) Lars Klingbeil during a debate in the Bundestag (the German parliament).

Ban the AfD ?

Voices calling for a ban on the AfD, especially from the chancellor's party, are increasing.

Even if it has little chance of success, a petition demanding that the constitutional rights of Björn Höcke, leader of the AfD in Thuringia and considered the party's strongman, be withdrawn from him has also collected more than a million signatures after the revelations of Correctiv.

In its Land, the party has been placed under increased surveillance, with the intelligence services judging that it defends unconstitutional positions.

“The state has a duty to study a possible ban on the AfD,” said Wolfgang Thierse, former Social Democratic President of the Bundestag.

The launch of a procedure in this direction – very long and complicated – is however viewed with a skeptical eye by most observers, who fear that failure would further fuel the popularity of the AfD .

But “if it is proven that a party wants to transform the country into a fascist state, it must be banned, regardless of its strength”, estimated the environmentalist vice-chancellor Robert Habeck in a magazine interview Stern.

Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116