An on-duty police vehicle at a rally for the controversial AfD party was discovered showing off a picture of the party's leader in the windshield. The image has started a social media firestorm about officer neutrality.
Police in the eastern German city of Jena were under fire on Thursday after an image of a right-wing magazine displayed prominently in the windshield of a police van began to circulate on social media.
The picture first appeared on Twitter on Wednesday afternoon, ahead of a demonstration by the populist Alternative for Germany (AfD) in the city. The magazine shown, "Compact," has AfD leader Frauke Petry on the cover - a controversial figure heading a party known to be divisive for its anti-migrant, nationalistic rhetoric.
"Do we have to worry about the neutrality of the Thuringia police, if something like this is in the windshield?" asked a Jena city Twitter user when sharing the image.
State police in Thuringia, where Jena is located, later replied: "No - of course we are nonpartisan! Sorry anyway."
Jena police followed up with an official statement, saying "all on-duty police officers are bound to uphold political neutrality. Since the incident with the magazine clearly violates this, the situation is being officially investigated."
The AfD event, attended by around 500 people, was met by an even bigger counter-demonstration of some 2,500 protesters. Ensuing clashes between the two groups and the police led officers to use batons and pepper spray, leaving several injured.
Founded in 2013 as a financially conservative alternative to mainstream German politics, the AfD has seen its popularity skyrocket since changing course to become more socially focused on a platform of stopping immigration and closing Germany's borders. Already present in several regional parliaments, the AfD recently came in third behind the country's two major parties in municipal elections in Hesse, and appears likely to join more state legislatures on Sunday, as three states are set for regional elections.
es/msh (epd, dpa)