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Germans Take to the Street Protesting Rise of the Far Right

On Oct. 13 Germans flooded into Alexanderplatz, a large public square in Berlin, rallying against the rise of the far-right and the anti-immigrant sentiment that has accompanied their gains in the German parliament. Thousands marched for the ‘Unteilbar’ protest, which translates to ‘Indivisible,’ a movement made up of a broad coalition of groups, all of whom are united in their dissatisfaction and concern at the proliferation of far-right parties, such as the Alternative for Germany (AfD) party.

Estimates put the turnout between 200,000 and 242,000 participants, a long shot from the expectations of the organizers of the protest. As the protestors chanted their slogans, upbeat pop music blasted from speakers mounted on trucks that drove alongside the protests, filling the streets with sounds from the march.

The Unteilbar protest was a reactionary movement. Only a few months ago, Chemnitz, Germany saw protests on a much smaller scale by far-right fringe groups after the fatal stabbing of a German man by two people who are alleged to be immigrants. After news spread of his death, people rallied in the streets chanting “foreigners, get out of our city.” Video footage also shows demonstrators doing Nazi salutes, as well as protestors chasing a man with darker skin, thought to be a foreigner by his assailants. An AfD lawmaker, Markus Frohnmaier, tweeted “When the state can’t protect its citizens, the citizens take to the street and protect themselves.” German Chancellor Angela Merkel quickly condemned the protests in Chemnitz, stating that the demonstrators motive was to “hunt down” foreigners. A counter-protest was held soon after, where thousands of protestors rallied around pro-immigrant chants, such as “Refugees welcome.”

The Unteilbar movement was well organized, with a website of goals, reasons for protest and a list of its supporters that went on for pages. Unteilbar uses the phrase “For an open and free society— Solidarity instead of exclusion” to encapsulate their movement. The goal is to “make solidarity visible” according to the website, highlighting the need to react with a show of force to those on the other side of the political spectrum who have taken to the streets as well. Many held protest signs similar to those seen at marches in the United States of America, with phrases like “build bridges not walls,” “united against racism” and “Germany for all.”

The movement states “We stand for an open and solidary society, indivisible in human rights, in which diverse and self-determined lifestyles are self-evident. We oppose any form of discrimination and hate speech. Together we strongly oppose anti-Muslim racism, anti-Semitism, anti-Gypsyim, anti-feminism and LGBTIQ* hostility.” They go on to reference the political shift occurring throughout Germany and Europe as a whole, and the pitting of one group or goal against another.

Multiple political parties weighed in on the demonstration, voicing their support for a politically active German society, including the Social Democratic Party (SPD), the Green Party and the socialist left.  Merkel’s Christian Democrats did not back the protest. Heiko Maas, the German Minister for Foreign Affairs tweeted out his support, stating “It is a great signal that so many people are going on the streets and showing a clear positions: We are indivisible. We won’t let ourselves be divided-certainly not by right-wing populists.”

As with much of Europe, Germany has a rise in support for far-right parties such as the AfD, as well as fringe right-wing movements. Counter-movements like Unteilbar have sprung up in reaction, to defend human rights, and compassionate values, many of which are broad coalitions made up of Muslim groups, LGBTQ rights groups, pro-immigrant and refugee associations and anti-fascist groups.

Support for the AfD has increased, making them the third largest party in the German Parliament. This is relatively shocking as they have only been a party since 2013. They only recently gained representation in the Parliament in 2017. Much of their rhetoric has been hinged upon anti-immigrant, xenophobic, anti-Semitic sentiments, with an emphasis on German nationalism. Membership of the party has been growing quickly since Germany’s decision to admit large amounts of refugees.

The Unteilbar movement certainly made its presence known, dwarfing the turnout that far-right protests had garnered in the recent past. The movement filled the streets, but their goals are more ambitious than simply protesting. The movements declaration reads “For a Europe of human rights and social justice! For a solitary and social togetherness instead of exclusion and racism! For the right to protection and asylum-Against the isolation of Europe! For a free and diverse society! Solidarity knows no boundaries!” Only time will tell if the movement is able to be sustained, as many European nations trend further right, throwing the goals of this movement into jeopardy.

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