Germany saw massive nationwide protests this past week in response to recent revelations that politicians from the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party met with extremist groups to discuss plans to deport hundreds of thousands or even millions of immigrants.
AfD Politicians Reportedly Meet with Extremists to Discuss Deportation Plans
The protests were sparked by reports last week that regional AfD lawmakers had met in Frankfurt with members of the far-right Identitarian Movement to talk about a “re-migration plan” that would forcibly deport immigrants, especially Muslims, who were deemed “unassimilated.”
Details of the meeting first came to light after an AfD parliamentary group employee was fired for passing information about the gathering to security services. The Identitarian Movement is considered extremist and is under surveillance by Germany’s domestic intelligence service.
AfD co-leader Alice Weidel initially confirmed that the meeting took place but denied that any “re-migration plans” were discussed. However, further investigation revealed not only plans to deport immigrants but also proposals to forcibly sterilize migrants to prevent population growth.
The revelations sparked outrage across the political spectrum in Germany, with leaders accusing the AfD of echoing the racist ideologies of the Nazi party. AfD leaders later backtracked and claimed the deportation plans were taken out of context.
Mass Demonstrations Across Germany Against AfD’s Far-Right Positions
In response to the AfD’s alleged deportation schemes, German civil society mobilized massive demonstrations across the country. On January 17, over 15,000 protesters marched in Hamburg calling for the AfD to be banned. Prominent politicians also participated, including Chancellor Olaf Scholz, Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock, and Hamburg Mayor Peter Tschentscher.
More protests emerged over the following days in Berlin, Munich, Cologne, Leipzig, and other major cities under the banner “No Place for Nazis.” The demonstrations brought together a diverse coalition of activists, unions, religious groups, immigrant rights advocates and mainstream political parties sounding the alarm against the normalization of far-right extremism.
Organizers estimated over 100,000 people nationwide took part. Protest signs drew comparisons between the AfD and the Nazis, declaring “Never Again” and “If You Sleep Through Fascism, You Wake Up In It.”
|Estimated Protest Size
Calls to Ban AfD Pick Up Steam
The AfD, currently the largest opposition party in Germany’s parliament, has faced repeated accusations of stoking racist hatred and violence against immigrants and Muslims. But the alleged deportation schemes have renewed calls to ban the party entirely.
Over half of Germans now support banning the AfD, according to a recent poll. Multiple demonstrations saw protesters carrying signs calling the AfD “Nazis” and demanding its prohibition. Politicians from mainstream parties have also echoed these calls, arguing the AfD’s radicalization threatens Germany’s democratic order.
However, legal experts note actually banning the AfD faces significant hurdles. German law sets a high bar for prohibiting political parties, which is only permitted if they actively seek to undermine the democratic system. Previous attempts to ban far-right parties have failed.
As an alternative, some experts propose tightening existing laws against hate speech and extremist symbols along with intensified monitoring of radical groups. But legislative action remains uncertain amidst fractious political debates.
What Happens Next?
The AfD tried to dismiss the outrage as politically motivated attacks from the left. But the party clearly feels pressure from the widening backlash.
On January 20, AfD co-leader Tino Chrupalla abruptly canceled his appearance at a far-right conference after learning Germany’s domestic intelligence chief would also attend. AfD leaders likely fear further scrutiny will uncover additional extremist links.
Meanwhile, the grassroots momentum against the AfD shows little sign of fading. Another wave of protests has already been announced for January 28, when anti-extremism activists from across Europe plan to rally in Berlin.
As anti-AfD activism gains steam, clashes with far-right groups are also likely to increase. Germany’s interior ministry warned extremists may carry out “provocative actions” targeting immigrants or political opponents to stir further chaos.
With a national election approaching next year, mainstream parties appear eager to capitalize on the AfD’s downward spiral. But a wounded AfD could embrace an even more confrontational approach as it tries to hold onto seats. Germany’s simmering extremism crisis may just be beginning.
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