Peaceful Assembly

Alleged collusion with the far-right party sparks outrage

German state premier of Thuringia, Thomas Kemmerich, has stepped down after only three days in office. The election of Kemmerich, who belongs to the FDP (Free Democratic Party) sparked controversy because he was backed by the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) Party. The AfD has been condemned for its views on immigration, freedom of speech and the press. In addition, working with the far-right party has been a taboo for centrist parties ever since it was founded. Although Kemmerich himself insisted there had been no co-operation with the far-right, there are signs that the FDP and AfD had discussed a pact in Thuringia before. In a 2019 letter which went viral on Twitter, AfD’s regional leader offered his support for a technocratic or minority government. Politicians inside and outside Germany immediately condemned Kemmerich’s election and the alleged cooperation with AfD. After his resignation, Kemmerich has called for new elections "to remove the stain of the AfD's support for the office of the premiership".

On 15th February 2020 thousands marched in the streets of Dresden and Erfurt against the ongoing political dealings with the AfD Party. Many protesters carried placards which read, “No pact with fascists" or "No place for Nazis". According to organisers, around 18,000 people marched in Erfurt. At the same time, a counter demonstration was held by far-right mobilisers.

Expression and Peaceful Assembly

Rising right-wing extremism

The above political situation in Germany takes place against a background of increasing right-wing extremism. On 14th February 2020, German police detained 12 men suspected of being part of a “right-wing terrorist group.” The group is said to have had plans for attacks on "politicians, asylum seekers and persons of the Muslim faith" intending "to bring about civil war-like conditions" in Germany.

In addition, on 19th February 2020 a gunman killed nine people in two different hookah bars in Hanau, just outside Frankfurt. Authorities consider the attack to be racially motivated based on a 24-page manifesto left by the shooter which denounced ethnic minorities in Germany. In the manifesto he calls for the “complete annihilation” of people from the Middle East, Asia and Africa. The gunman later shot himself and his mother. The weapon that the gunman used was the same one used in a previous deadly far-right shooting in Munich in 2016.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) issued a statement following the attack, stating that “hate-motivated, xenophobic and anti-Semitic attacks are a growing problem in Germany”. It adds that official figures from October 2019 revealed that there were 12,500 “politically motivated” criminal offences, a category that includes hate crimes which are attributed to the far-right groups.

Following the attacks, about 10,000 people marched on the 23rd February 2020 in support of the victims of the Hanau attack.The incident is the third deadly far-right attack in less than a year. As previously reported on the Monitor, on 9th October 2019 a gunman tried to enter a Synagogue in the city of Halle during a celebration of Yom Kippur. After he was unsuccessful, the man opened fire on a woman in the street and a man in a nearby kebab shop, killing them both. In June 2019 Walter Lübcke, from the ruling CDU party, who has been vocal about the rights of refugees to asylum, was shot dead.

On 6th March 2020 at least 7,500 people demonstrated in Munich against far-right terrorism and anti-Semitism, following the attacks in Hanau in February.

As previously reported by the Monitor, following the Synagogue incident, which was live streamed online by the perpetrator, the government published proposals to force social media platforms to report illegal content to law enforcement. The bill has now been approved by cabinet and awaits a stamp of approval from the GermanParliament.

Pro-refugee rally draws thousands

On 7th March 2020 about 5,000 people gathered in Berlin to protest against the German government's handling of the migration crisis unfolding at the Turkish-Greek border.

The rally took place as a result of many migrants and refugees from Turkey moving towards EU borders due to the Turkish President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan announcing that the frontier had been reopened. Reports suggest that EU and German forces have used tear gas to prevent migrants from crossing EU borders. Protestors chanted “Hamburg has space” as a response to the German government’s claims that the country has no space to house migrants and refugees.