At least 250,000 people across Germany protest against far-right AfD

Olaf Scholz encouraged citizens 'to take a stand - for cohesion, for tolerance, for our democratic Germany'

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Around 250,000 protesters have attended demonstrations across Germany against the far-right AfD, which sparked an outcry after it emerged that the party's members discussed mass deportation plans at a meeting of extremists.

Around 35,000 people joined a "Defend democracy - Frankfurt against the AfD" march in the financial heart of Germany.

In the northern city of Hanover, a similar number turned up with some carrying posters like "Nazis out".

Protests were also held in cities including Braunschweig, Erfurt and Kassel and many smaller towns, mirroring mobilisation every day over the past week.

In all, demonstrations have been called in about 100 locations across Germany from Friday through the weekend, including in Berlin on Sunday.

Not only politicians but also churches and Bundesliga coaches have urged people to stand up against the AfD.

The wave of mobilisation against the far-right party was sparked by a January 10 report by investigative outlet Correctiv, which revealed that AfD members had discussed the expulsion of immigrants and "non-assimilated citizens" at a meeting with extremists.

Among the participants at the talks was Martin Sellner, a leader of Austria's Identitarian Movement, which subscribes to the "great replacement" conspiracy theory that claims there is a plot by non-white migrants to replace Europe's "native" white population.

News of the gathering sent shockwaves across Germany at a time when the AfD is soaring in opinion polls, just months ahead of three major regional elections in eastern Germany where their support is strongest.

The anti-immigration party confirmed the presence of its members at the meeting, but has denied taking on the "remigration" project championed by Mr Sellner.

But leading politicians including 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".

He urged "all to take a stand - for cohesion, for tolerance, for our democratic Germany".

Friedrich Merz, the leader of the opposition conservatives CDU party, also wrote on X that it was "very encouraging that thousands of people are demonstrating peacefully against right-wing extremism".

But besides members of the AfD, two members of the hard-right faction Werteunion of the CDU were also at the meeting near Potsdam cited by Correctiv.

Amid the outrage over the Potsdam meeting, the Werteunion's leader Hans-Georg Maassen said Saturday it had decided to split from the CDU.

The group said it has about 4,000 members, many of whom were originally members of the CDU or the CDU's Bavarian sister party CSU.

Updated: January 20, 2024, 9:05 PM