Chancellor says protests are ‘strong sign in favour of democracy’ as demonstrators gather in Berlin, Dresden, Hanover and other cities
About 200,000 people have taken to the streets of Germany in further protests against the far-right party Alternative for Germany (AfD).
Protests on Saturday also took place in Dresden, Mainz and Hanover in a sign of growing alarm at strong public support for AfD.
Roughly 150,000 people flocked to the Reichstag parliament building in Berlin, where protesters gathered under the slogan “We are the Firewall” to protest against right-wing extremism and to show support for democracy.
The chancellor, Olaf Scholz, wrote on X: “Whether in Eisenach, Homburg or Berlin: in small and large cities across the country, many citizens are coming together to demonstrate against forgetting, against hatred and hate speech.”
He said the protests were “a strong sign in favour of democracy and our constitution”.
AfD’s success has stoked concern among Germany’s mainstream parties, who fear it could win three state elections in eastern Germany in September, even though recent polls have shown a slight decline in AfD support.
Jakob Springfeld, who speaks for the NGO Solidarity Network Saxony, said he was shocked that it had taken such a long time for mass demonstrations against the far right, given the AfD had been successful in many smaller communities already.
“But there’s a jolt now. And the fact that the jolt is coming provides hope I believe,” he said.
Earlier this week, a Forsa poll showed that backing for AfD had dropped below 20% for the first time since July, with voters citing countrywide demonstrations against the far right as the most important issue.
According to the poll, AfD remained in second place behind the main opposition party, the conservative Christian Democratic Union, on 32%, while Scholz’s centre-left Social Democrats polled third at 15%.
The protests, which are now in their fourth week, followed a report last month that two senior AfD members had attended a meeting to discuss plans for the mass deportation of citizens of foreign origin. AfD has denied that the proposal represented party policy.
AfD co-leader Tino Chrupalla told broadcaster Deutschlanfunk that while it was “legitimate to take to the streets”, protesters should not allow themselves to be used to distract parties from the country’s actual problems.
Chrupalla said Germany included Germans with a migrant background and that his party was not planning to expel them.