The attendance numbers at a mass rally against the rightwing movement “Alternative for Germany” (AfD) were lower than anticipated. The event, which was held in Berlin on September 3, managed to only attract 2,500 people, according to police sources. The organizers of the rally had expected around 10,000 demonstrators and said their count was 6,000 attendees.
The police said the event went peacefully – despite the fact that 1,100 policemen and women were on standby to ensure safety.
The newly founded AfD party has been polarizing Germans, with many people accusing the movement of xenophobia, Islamophobia, and racism – while others, particularly in East Germany, support the party for its calls for caps on immigration and its euroskeptic attitude. The party has seen a surge in support in the past 12 months with the onset of Europe’s refugee crisis and German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s so-called
open-door policy toward migrants.
The chairman of Germany’s Central Council of Muslims, Aiman Mazyek, said ahead of the rally that the AfD was promoting a “dangerous mood” across the country by spreading prejudice against Muslims. The chairwoman of Germany’s Union of Persecutees of the Nazi Regime went further and said that the AfD was opening the floodgates for “racism and nationalism.”
On the eve of state elections
Several political parties joined together to organize the march in Berlin, which also went past the headquarters of the AfD party along its route. The organizers included members of the Green Party, the “Linke” (Left) party, the “Jusos” youth wing of the Social Democrats as well as smaller group loosely affiliated with the “Occupy” movement. Germany’s largest trade union, Verdi, was also involved in the event.
AfD-leader Frauke Petry made headline news by saying that she would like to see migrants shipped off to islands outside of Europe for processing and eventual deportation
“The AfD has turned into a serious threat against all those who don’t fit into its view of the world,” the organizers said in a statement, adding that for many months, the new party had been “poisoning any public discourse with its rightwing demagogy and its backwards, populist slogans.”
The event was held ahead of regional elections in the state of
Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania in state
elections on September 4. The rightwing AfD party is expected to make huge gains there, with some pollsters expecting the new party to attract up to 20 percent of the vote. Later in September 2016, there will also be municipal elections across the state of Lower Saxony and state elections in the city state of Berlin. The AfD party is also predicted to make its entrance into the Bundestag, Germany’s lower house of parliament, in next year’s federal elections.
ss/kl (AFP, dpa, epd)