Far Right Germans Try to Storm Reichstag as Coronavirus Protests Grow

Far Right Germans Try to Storm Reichstag as Coronavirus Protests Grow


“They shout ‘We are the people,’ but they’re not,” Mr. Quent said of the protesters who swarmed the Reichstag.

“In Germany, like many other European countries, we see that far-right parties are losing ground, that there is growing trust in incumbent governments,” Mr. Quent said. “In the short term the pandemic can’t be exploited by far-right parties.”

If the economy deteriorates further and unemployment rises, that equation may change, he said. Already, the AfD and more extreme far-right groups are trying to capitalize on the discontent as they begin positioning themselves for what may be a much uglier political scene some months from now.

What worries officials and extremism experts more immediately is that even if the far right is a minority at the protests, it is radicalizing. Among those calling on supporters to join the protest on Saturday were Björn Höcke, an AfD firebrand, and Martin Sellner, star of the extremist Generation Identity movement, both of whom have been classified as far-right extremists by the domestic intelligence service.

Message boards are flush with far-right conspiracy theories and prepper groups, which have long fantasized about a crisis so deep that it would lead to the collapse of Germany’s liberal order. Ahead of Saturday’s protest, which the city government had tried to block before being overruled by a court, several public groups on the messaging app Telegram had called for a “storm on Berlin.”

Some had posted photos of themselves and their weapons. “That is very unusual for Germany,” Mr. Quent said.

The authorities are on high alert. Over the past 14 months, far-right terrorists have assassinated a regional politician on his front porch near the central city of Kassel, attacked a synagogue in Halle, in the east, and in February, killed 10 people in the west, in Hanau. Even before the pandemic hit Germany, far-right extremism and far-right terrorism had been officially identified as the biggest danger to the country’s democracy.



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