AfD meets as protesters clash with police outside – DW – 06/29/2024

Members of the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) re-elected Tino Chrupalla and Alice Weidel for a new two-year term as party leaders on Saturday.

Chrupalla said he was “a bit overwhelmed” after receiving 82.72 percent support from members at the party conference in Essen, in the west of the country. Weidel received 79.77 percent of the vote.

Both leaders saw an increase in support compared to the last party congress two years ago. The two men were unopposed in the vote by about 600 delegates gathered in an indoor arena.

As delegates voted, huge crowds gathered outside to protest the populist party. Some demonstrators clashed with the police, injuring 28 police officers, including one in serious condition.

Re-elected leaders call for new elections

In his opening speech at the conference before the vote, Weidel attacked Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s government coalition.

AfD’s Weidel demands ‘migration turnaround’ for Germany

This browser does not support the video element.

“Dear government, finally get out of here and pave the way for new elections,” she said, before adding that firewalls against the AfD were not necessary.

Weidel was referring to the refusal of Germany’s main parties to work with the far-right party.

Chrupalla, meanwhile, said the AfD was “stronger than ever” after the two leaders “brought peace” to the once divided party.

Tens of thousands of people took part in a demonstration against the far-right partyImage: Henning Kaiser/dpa/photo alliance

He also highlighted the growth in the party’s membership. According to him, the AfD now has 46,881 members, 17,723 more than at the beginning of 2023. The number of members is expected to exceed 50,000 by the fall, he added.

Michaela Küfner, DW’s chief political correspondent, was reporting from inside the AfD congress.

“What the AfD is doing is focusing on what it knows best: its anti-immigration position,” she said. “This has just proven that [it is a force to be reckoned with] in the European elections. And despite reports of internal conflicts, the current party leaders, Alice Weidel and Tino Chrupalla, have just been re-elected. So it is clear that the AfD intends to capitalise on the issues it knows best.”

AfD focuses on what it knows best: anti-immigration stance

This browser does not support the video element.

Clashes between demonstrators and police outside the AfD congress

Earlier Saturday, police used pepper spray and batons to prevent a large group of protesters from breaking through a cordon near the congressional venue.

It was unclear whether any protesters were injured in the incident, which happened around 5:45 a.m. (0345 GMT), but police said they made several arrests and some officers were attacked.

A few hundred demonstrators temporarily blocked a highway exit ramp, while others occupied streets and intersections near the convention center.

“At one point, politicians and AfD members needed police protection to get to the scene,” DW political correspondent Alex Gerst said, adding that the protest had calmed down by mid-afternoon.

“Yes, there were clashes, but less than expected. It was mainly a peaceful demonstration by members of religious congregations, Fridays for Future [climate movement] and grandmothers against the far right [Omas gegen Rechts]They all came together to send the message that the city of Essen does not welcome the AfD congress.”

Protests as far-right AfD meets for party conference

This browser does not support the video element.

Police later reported that one officer was seriously injured by kicks to the head and had to be taken to hospital. They had earlier said that two of them were in serious condition, but the injuries of one of the officers were found to be less serious after a medical examination.

“Several violent and disruptive actions took place in the Ruettenscheld district. Demonstrators, some wearing hoods, attacked the security forces. Several arrests took place,” the police said in a statement.

Interior Minister Nancy Faeser wished the injured police officers a speedy recovery. “We need strong democratic forces and peaceful protests against right-wing extremism and racism,” she wrote on X, adding that violence “cannot be justified by anything.”

Presence of high security

Several thousand police officers have been deployed as part of security measures aimed at preventing civil unrest.

In total, some 100,000 protesters were expected to take part in the demonstrations against the AfD, an ultra-conservative anti-immigration party which is gaining ground, particularly in the former communist east of the country.

Although organizers said the protests would be peaceful, police feared violence from around 1,000 left-wing extremists who also planned to demonstrate. Authorities called on protesters to “stay away from violent actions and troublemakers.”

Some 5,000 protesters took part in a musical rally on Friday evening under the motto “Bass gegen Hass” (“Bass against hate”).

Authorities in Essen tried for months to prevent the AfD from holding the two-day party conference in the city, but ultimately failed in court.

Spy agency monitors AfD activities

The AfD is being monitored by Germany’s domestic intelligence service (BfV) as a suspected far-right organisation. The agency has warned that the party poses a racist, anti-Semitic and anti-democratic threat to Germany.

Despite such warnings and a series of scandals, the party came second in Germany in the June 9 European elections and even took first place in the five former eastern communist states.

It is also expected to become the strongest party in September elections in three of these eastern states – Saxony, Thuringia and Brandenburg – as other parties fear they will be unable to form a governing coalition.

AfD leaders are also seeking to take advantage of the party’s growing popularity as Germany prepares for federal elections in fall 2025.

mm, tj/ko (AFP, dpa)

Germany’s far-right AfD is doing well despite setbacks

This browser does not support the video element.

While you’re here: every Tuesday, the DW editorial team provides an update on German political and social news. Sign up here to receive the weekly Berlin Briefing newsletter.

Leave a Comment