Up to 300,000 people took to the rainy streets of Berlin, Germany on Saturday as nationwide protests against the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party. Protests were also taking place in dozens of other cities such as Freiburg, Dresden, Hannover, and Mainz, a sign of growing alarm at growing support for the AfD.
Under the slogan “We are the Firewall” — a reference to the longstanding taboo against collaborating with the far right in German politics — protesters turned the space next to the Bundestag, or national parliament, into a sea of signs, flags, and umbrellas.
“All together against racism,” the crowd in Berlin shouted. Some held posters that said “Heart instead of hate” or “Racism is not an alternative.”
The new wave of mobilization against Alternative for Germany (AfD) was ignited by a January report by investigative outlet Correctiv. It revealed that AfD members had discussed the expulsion of immigrants and “non-assimilated citizens” at a meeting with extremists.
The report sent shockwaves across Germany at a time when the AfD was soaring in opinion polls, months ahead of three major regional elections in eastern Germany where their support was strongest.
“We absolutely must not allow the stories that we experienced in 1930 or even back in the 1920s to happen again … We must do everything we can to prevent that,” said Jonas Schmidt, who came from the western port city of Bremen told the Associated Press. “That’s why I’m here.”
Kathrin Zauter, another protester, called the strong attendance “really encouraging.”
“This encourages everyone and shows that we are more — we are many,” she said.
Jakob Springfeld, the spokesman 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.”
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz praised the protests, writing in a Saturday post on the social media platform X that citizens’ presence at the gatherings is “a strong sign for democracy and our constitution.”
“In small and big cities across the country, citizens are coming together to demonstrate against forgetting, against hate and incitement,” he added.