Tens of thousands of demonstrators flooded the streets of Germany on Saturday in a powerful display of opposition against the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party. The rallies, which took place in approximately 200 cities, were sparked by revelations that AfD members discussed the expulsion of immigrants and “non-assimilated citizens” during a meeting with extremists.
In Berlin, nearly 150,000 people, according to police estimates, gathered in front of parliament, forming a human chain, while organizers claimed the figure reached 300,000. Similar human chains and protests unfolded in other cities across the country.
The wave of mobilization against the AfD was triggered by a January 10 report from investigative outlet Correctiv, exposing discussions within the party about the expulsion of certain groups. The revelations raised concerns, particularly as the AfD has been gaining momentum in opinion polls, just months before three major regional elections in eastern Germany, where their support is strongest.
Chants of “All together against racism” echoed through the Berlin crowd, with posters declaring “Heart instead of hate” and “Racism is not an alternative.” Many attendees found the rally site already packed, leading some to gather in nearby parks and along the Spree River.
Margret Hurth, a 53-year-old childcare worker, expressed uncertainty about influencing AfD voters but emphasized the importance of sending a signal for humanity and respect for differences. University professor Martin Raue, who traveled from Sweden to attend, stated, “I came to set an example.”
The Berlin rally, organized by the “Hand in Hand” collective comprising 1,800 organizations, including the Fridays for Future climate group, involved around 700 deployed police officers and concluded without incidents.
Similar to Berlin, a human chain formed around the state assembly building in Potsdam. German Chancellor Olaf Scholz praised the nationwide demonstrations, emphasizing their significance for democracy and the constitution. Markus Soeder, leader of the conservative CSU party in the opposition, condemned the AfD as “a deeply far-right party” and criticized their “hateful speeches.”
The AfD acknowledged the presence of its members at a November meeting with Austria’s Identitarian Movement but denied adopting the “remigration” project promoted by the movement, which subscribes to the “great replacement” conspiracy theory. The AfD accused the government of orchestrating a “campaign against the only true opposition party in Germany” in response to the protests.