Extremists could hijack coronavirus rallies in Germany, warns BfV head | News | DW | 01.09.2020
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Extremists could hijack coronavirus rallies in Germany, warns BfV head

Protests against coronavirus lockdown measures have been gaining momentum. Extremists could now use the movement for their own ends, the chief of Germany's domestic security agency, Thomas Haldenwang, told DPA.

The recent anti-lockdown protests have seen many different groups take to the streets to decry the government's efforts to curb the pandemic. However, right-wing extremists could use the protest movement for their own ends, the head of Germany's domestic security agency BfV, Thomas Haldenwang, said on Tuesday.

"Right-wing extremists and Reichsbürger [members] succeeded in occupying a resonant space, creating powerful images and thus exploiting the heterogeneous protest events," Haldenwang told the DPA news agency.

The 60-year-old lawyer has served as the head of the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution, or BfV, since November 2018.

Read more: German government slams Reichstag far-right rush as 'shameful'

Authorities' concerns about the protests appeared to have been confirmed, added Haldenwang.

Watch video 02:59

'Shameful' attempt to storm the Reichstag

Police had initially banned the anti-coronavirus lockdown protests on safety grounds. They were also concerned protesters would not obey social-distancing and coronavirus health guidelines.

But the rally went ahead in Berlin on Saturday after the police ban was overruled by a last-minute court ruling. Some 38,000 protesters attended.

During the protests, around 300 to 400 protesters rushed the steps of the Reichstag building, where the lower house of Germany's parliament convenes.

Warnings were unheeded

The BfV has repeatedly warned that right-wing extremists could try to take the lead in the "very diverse demonstrations," Haldenwang commented to DPA.

Haldenwang's office had noted "increased mobilization by right-wing extremists" both before and during the demonstrations.

The agency has noted various right-wing groups at the rally, including the New Right, the Alternative for Germany (AfD) affiliated Young Alternatives — that has officially disbanded —  as well as Reichsbürger members.

"We are observing closely whether the right-wing amalgamation takes on an even larger dimension and whether these actors are becoming capable of connecting with each other," Haldenwang told DPA.