German Protests During Alt-right Party Conferences

In the midst of an increase of populist parties in various nations around the world, including the United States and France, Germany has been experiencing protests against their own populist party, the AfD. Over the weekend, over 6,000 protesters showed up in Hanover to demonstrate their opposition to the openly anti-Islamic AfD. Five different protest events were organized to align with the alt-right party’s first conferences since the elections in September. The conferences aimed to elect a new executive board and decide on the ideological direction of the party. BBC reports that the Hanover police used water cannons, batons, and pepper spray against the protestors, in temperatures that were nearly below freezing, in order to clear a path for the 600 AfD delegates. Several people were injured, including a protester that broke his leg after chaining himself to a barricade and an officer that was hit with a flying bottle. Ten protestors were also taken into custody by the police force.

The AfD was founded in 2013 as an anti-euro party and has since evolved into an alt-right party with nationalistic sentiments that are somewhat reminiscent of Nazi Germany. In the September elections, AfD won 12.6% of the votes making it the third largest party in the Bundenstag. Many expect it to become Germany’s main opposition party. The AfD’s campaign adopted an openly anti-Islamic policy during May of 2016, putting up banners that read “Burkas? We like bikinis.” and “Islam does not belong in Germany”. Unfortunately, this campaign strategy was effective for many Germans frightened of the large number of undocumented immigrants that President Angela Merkel intended to take in. In fact, one the party’s biggest successes were challenging Merkel’s intention to let in 1.3 million immigrants from the Middle East in 2015.

Delegates from AfD have recently elected Alexander Gauland and Jörg Meuthen as co-leaders of the party. Both men have extreme right political ideologies, indicating the future direction of the party. Gauland has on several occasions been accused of making comments with Nazi sentiments, including the use of the phrase “Lügenpresse” or “lying press,” commonly used by leaders in Nazi Germany. Further, Gauland recently received backlash for stating that Germany should be “proud” of the soldiers who fought in both World Wars, including WWII, in which German soldiers were guilty of countless mass atrocities and war crimes. Another leader in the AfD party, Frauke Petry, has said that he believes that Germany should set up a new and more strict border police force in which illegal immigrants should be shot if necessary.

These populistic sentiments are being seen worldwide, however, they are especially detrimental in a country that so closely borders the Middle East. The refugee crisis in Syria has been trickling into Western Europe and as more help is needed for the hundreds of thousands of refugees, less help is being offered.

Victoria McShane