Massive Protest Against Far Right Inundates Central Berlin

Massive Protest Against Far Right Inundates Central Berlin

Massive Protest Against Far Right Inundates Central Berlin

Over 150,000 demonstrators assembled in the German capital, Berlin, on Saturday to express their opposition to right-wing extremism.

Tareq Alaows, an activist and speaker from the Pro Asyl group, passionately exclaimed into his microphone on a rainy Saturday afternoon, “We have encircled the entire Bundestag building! We have created a living firewall!” Thousands of individuals had gathered in Berlin, near prominent landmarks such as the Reichstag parliament building, the Brandenburg Gate, and the central train station. Their purpose was to unite against right-wing extremism.

Under the slogan “We are the Firewall,” the demonstrators emphasized the importance of rejecting any collaboration with the far right in German politics. The protest, organized by the coalition of organizations known as “Hand in Hand—Act in Solidarity Now!”, drew an estimated 300,000 attendees, according to organizers, while police estimated around 150,000.

This significant rally marked the latest in a series of similar protests that have taken place in recent weeks. In addition to Berlin, demonstrations against right-wing extremism also unfolded in various parts of Germany. Approximately 30,000 people stood up against this ideology in Freiburg and Dresden, while Nuremberg, Augsburg, and numerous other cities saw around 25,000 individuals join the cause.

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The most significant protest since mid-January

Massive Protest Against Far Right Inundates Central Berlin

Saturday’s rally in Berlin marked the largest protest since mid-January, according to official police estimates. This significant demonstration came about as a response to the wave of rallies against the far right that began in January. Correctiv’s January 10 report ignited the protests, revealing meetings in November 2023 between AfD members, right-wing extremists, certain CDU members, and business figures. These meetings discussed plans for mass deportations from Germany.

Since then, millions of Germans have united against right-wing extremism, with over 1,800 organizations calling for Berliners to join the cause. Prominent civil society associations, major charities, and dedicated activists actively joined the movement, even if some lacked widespread recognition.

During the rally, about two dozen speakers took the stage, many of whom were under the age of 40. One of the more well-known speakers was Luisa Neubauer from the Fridays for Future climate protests. Neubauer expressed her hope that this rally would ignite a broad social movement to combat right-wing extremism and violence.

“Hope doesn’t just appear out of thin air. It requires hard work,” Neubauer emphasized to the protesters. “Democracy isn’t something you simply have; it’s something you actively live.”

Protesters were spotted proudly displaying a variety of homemade signs with clever slogans, many of which were aimed at the right-wing populist AfD. The crowd enthusiastically applauded calls for increased social work, better education, and stronger initiatives to combat right-wing extremism. However, slogans targeting the current three-party coalition and opposition CDU/CSU parties did not receive a warm reception.

The speakers from Germany’s eastern states of Brandenburg, Thuringia, and Saxony received a special round of applause and cheers. The far right subjected them to violence, harassed, and instilled fear, sharing their unsettling experiences. At the same time, they praised the newfound awareness among civil society actors.

“Sending solidarity greetings to all those participating in the demonstrations in Dresden and Glauchau today,” said Jakob Springfeld, a 21-year-old student and author. “That’s where it truly matters.” Both cities are known for having right-wing extremist influences. Most protesters paid close attention to speeches like these, especially when they highlighted the increasing pressure from right-wing extremists and acts of violence against journalists, such as the Correctiv team.

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‘Freedom, democracy, and plurality’

Saturday’s vibrant gathering attracted a diverse crowd, including families spanning multiple generations.

A mother from Berlin’s Wedding district expressed her desire for her children to understand the importance of democracy and civic engagement from a young age. She emphasized the need for them to stand up for their rights. Another attendee, an elderly lady, joined the rally to uphold the values of freedom, democracy, and plurality, and to preserve the unique essence of Berlin.

Jannis, a teacher who preferred not to disclose his last name, attended the protest alongside a group of individuals from South Korea, Vietnam, and China. He proudly held a sign that proclaimed “We are Germany,” with the phrase “Germany is us” on the reverse side. Jannis explained that as a community of Asians, they wanted to demonstrate their belongingness to Germany.

He further emphasized that taking a stand against right-wing ideologies showcased their deep connection to German society. Having lived and worked in Germany for two decades, Jannis, originally from China, expressed his constant need to prove his belongingness, despite contributing through work and taxes.

Jannis’ colleague actively held a cardboard sign, advocating openness and diversity as prerequisites for welcoming skilled workers from abroad.

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More protests planned for Sunday

Massive Protest Against Far Right Inundates Central Berlin

Additional demonstrations are scheduled for Sunday, with the Berlin rally being the largest protest in Germany on Saturday. However, it is important to note that this was not the only protest taking place. Furthermore, eastern Germany will be a particular focus, anticipating some of the largest protests in smaller towns since the historic fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. As the Berlin rally concluded on Saturday, a final speaker announced another significant protest planned for June 8, the day before the European Parliament elections in Germany.

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