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Germany's second day of major city rallies against AfD

January 21, 2024

Over a million people took to the streets in Berlin, Cologne, Munich, and other cities in Germany to protest against the AfD party. The protests reflect a growing concern over right-wing politics in the country.

People gather to protest against the AfD party and right-wing extremism in front of the Reichstag building in Berlin, Germany, Sunday, Jan. 21, 2024.
Police estimated that 100,000 braved the winter weather to demonstrate in central Berlin on Sunday, with many staying until duskImage: Ebrahim Noroozi/AP Photo/picture alliance

An estimated 1.4 million people in Germany demonstrated against the far-right Alternative for Germany party (AfD) from Friday to Sunday, according to the organizers of the events.

From Friday through the weekend, demonstrations were called in about 100 locations across Germany. On Sunday, rallies were held in major cities such as Cologne, Munich and Berlin. Several other German cities, including Cottbus, Dresden and Chemnitz in the east, also planned to hold demonstrations.

In Berlin, around 100,000 gathered outside the Bundestag, or the lower house of parliament, according to police figures.

Berlin's protest focused aroud the Reichstag building on Sunday Image: Thomas Imo/photothek/picture alliance

Police in Munich said that some 80,000 people participated in the march, while organizers put the figure at 200,000. The march had to be called off due to overcrowding and attendees were asked to disperse.

Meanwhile, in Cologne, police sources put the number of demonstrators at around 10,000.

Mass protests against Germany's far right gain new momentum


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Huge demonstrations across Germany

According to estimates by public broadcaster ARD, some 250,000 demonstrators gathered in cities across the country on Saturday, carrying signs such as "Nazis out."

About 35,000 people gathered in Frankfurt on Saturday for a "defend democracy" march. Protesters filled the central square, where organizers planned to hold the rally, as well as a second nearby square and the streets in between. Police said the demonstration was peaceful.

Tens of thousands march against Germany’s far-right


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On Friday, a massive rally in Hamburg had to be stopped early as far more people than expected turned out. The largest protest of its sort so far, police said there were 50,000 people and organizers put the number 80,000, pointing out that the rally was called to a close before many were able to reach it.

Police estimates of crowd sizes at other protests included: 12,000 in Kassel, 7,000 each in Dortmund and Wuppertal, 20,000 in Karlsruhe, at least 10,000 in Nuremberg, about 16,000 in Halle/Saale, 5,000 in Koblenz and several thousand in Erfurt.

Why are so many people protesting now?

The wave of mobilization against the far-right party was sparked by a January 10 report from investigative outlet Correctiv, which revealed that AfD members had met with extremists in Potsdam in November to discuss expelling immigrants and "non-assimilated citizens." Members of the conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU), the main opposition party, were reportedly also present.

Participants in the meeting discussed "remigration," a term often used in far-right circles as a euphemism for the expulsion of immigrants and minorities. 

The turnout in Munich was so strong that the organizers had to disperse the protest for safety reasonsImage: Sven Hoppe/dpa/picture alliance

News of the meeting shocked many in Germany at a time when the AfD is riding high in opinion polls ahead of three major regional elections in eastern Germany, where the party's support is strongest. Chancellor Olaf Scholz, who joined a demonstration last weekend, said any plan to expel immigrants or citizens alike amounted to "an attack against our democracy, and in turn, on all of us".

AfD confirmed the presence of its members at the meeting but maintained that its remigration proposals, which were part of its last election manifesto, do not include naturalized German citizens. These comments at the meeting were made by an Austrian far-right figure, Martin Sellner, who is not a member of the AfD.

dh/rc (AFP, dpa)

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