It keeps my faith in this city. On one of the hottest days of the year so far, rather than sit around in parks swilling beer, about 12,000 protesters – the diverse Berlin Nazifrei coalition of Greens, SPD, Die Linke, various unions, the Protestant church and of course the Antifa – hit the baking tarmac to counter the neo-Nazi demo that barked its way through the government quarter.
The rightwingers had announced their march would be 5000 strong. Only 1500 showed up – mostly garden variety Nazis, grunting types with extremely short haircuts and both middle fingers frozen in place. The thugs shouted “Merkel must go” (though her party, the lame-ass CDU was conspicuously absent! We wouldn’t want to protest too loudly against racism, would we?) Chants of “Wir sind das Volk!” – shamelessly highjacked from the peaceful revolution that swept over the GDR in 1989 – were also popular among the Nazis. Guys like Herr “learn East German” in the photo shared their special brand of humour with the world.
Police had predicted 3000 counter-demonstrators. Instead, 12,000 bodies took to the streets to denounce racism and rightwing violence.
The populist AfD officially distanced itself from the Nazi demo, but the fact that a local AfD politician Heribert Eisenhardt from Lichtenberg took part speaks volumes about the dubious characters you’ll find in the party’s base.The AfD is polling at about 9 percent in Berlin (as opposed to 14 percent nationally). While not everyone in the AfD is a neo-Nazi, there is plenty of spillover in both directions. All is not well in Germany.
Now is no time for passivity. If you’re not German and hence can’t vote, nonetheless stay informed on Berlin Nazifrei’s counterdemos, follow them on Facebook or Twitter. The next big anti-racist demo is planned for July 30. Sunday was the anniversary of the defeat of Nazi Germany 71 years ago. Let’s make sure Berlin never goes braun again!