Thousands of leftist demonstrators have tried to disrupt a gathering of Alternative for Germany (AfD), the rightwing populist party already riven by festering internal rivalries five months before the country’s general election.
About 50,000 demonstrators were expected to mobilise during the two-day AfD party congress in the western city of Cologne, with 4,000 police officers dispatched to keep the peace.
But as the 600 delegates began filing into the congress venue, a hotel in the city centre, demonstrators attempted to block them from passing through security barricades, leading to scuffles with authorities.
One police officer suffered a facial injury, leading to the arrest of a male protester.
Germany has deployed thousands of riot police to prevent the Leftists from attacking AfD supporters and shutting down the congress.
Cologne’s mayor is Henriette Reker, a strong advocate of replacing Germans with Third World immigrants. She was supported by the “conservatives,” libertarians and the Greens in 2015, winning 52% of the vote. Cologne is infamous for the 2016 mass sexual assault by up to 2,000 Muslim immigrants upon German women at a New Year’s festival. Reker blamed the victims for the attack. Cologne has nearly 60,000 Turkish immigrants and at least 120,000 Muslim immigrants in total.
AfD’s leader, Frauke Petry (who is pregnant with her fifth child), recently announced that she will not head the party’s ticket in the September German election. The Guardian reports that nationalists have essentially taken control of the party:
Germany’s Alternative for Germany (AfD) is expected to lurch further to the right at its party conference this weekend after its last self-declared moderates conceded defeat to hardliners, and former members warned that regional branches were being “flooded by the far far right”.
… [T]he party’s transformation into an openly xenophobic, nationalist political group looks complete. On Wednesday, the AfD co-leader Frauke Petry – a former chemist who sees herself as representative of the party’s “realist” wing – announced via a video message on her Facebook page that she would not run as her party’s candidate in the September elections, citing the lack of a coherent strategy and expressing frustration with her party colleagues’ course of “maximum provocation”.
Petry, who presided over a rightward lurch and the ousting of the AfD founder, Bernd Lucke, in 2015 has been fighting a battle to expel the party’s firebrand agitator Björn Höcke over his call for a “180-degree turn” from the postwar tradition of atoning for the crimes of the Nazi era.
But her effort to remove Höcke only ended up shoring up his support and Wednesday’s withdrawal amounts to Petry deserting the stage for a far right takeover.
It will be interesting to watch how the German police handle the Leftist protesters in Cologne – whether they are allowed to riot as in Stockholm, Rotterdam and Berkeley or kept under control as in Auburn. It will also be interesting to see if Höcke emerges as the leader of a more nationalist AfD which can unify ahead of the election in September.