1. Skip to content
  2. Skip to main menu
  3. Skip to more DW sites

Germany: AfD meets as protesters clash with police outside

June 29, 2024

One police officer was seriously injured during protests outside the Alternative for Germany party congress in Essen. Inside, the far-right party reelected Tino Chrupalla and Alice Weidel for another two years.

Police standing before protesters, many seated on the street
Police were out in force at the demonstrations outside the party congress in EssenImage: Henning Kaiser/dpa/picture alliance

Members of the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) reelected Tino Chrupalla and Alice Weidel to another two-year term as joint party leaders on Saturday.

Chrupalla said he was "a bit overwhelmed" after receiving 82.72% support from members at the party conference in the western city of Essen. Weidel received 79.77% of the vote.

Both leaders saw an increase in support compared with the party's last congress two years ago. The pair were unopposed in the vote by around 600 delegates gathered at an indoor arena.

As the delegates voted, huge crowds gathered outside to protest the populist party. Some demonstrators clashed with police, injuring 28 officers, one of which was left in a serious condition.

Reelected leaders call for new elections

In her opening speech to the conference ahead of the vote, Weidel attacked the governing coalition of Chancellor Olaf Scholz.

AfD's Weidel demands 'turnaround on migration' for Germany

"Dear government, finally get out of here and clear the way for new elections," she said, before adding that firewalls against the AfD were not necessary.

Weidel was referring to the refusal by Germany's mainstream parties to work with the far-right party.

Chrupalla, meanwhile, said the AfD was "stronger than ever" after the two leaders had "brought peace" to the once-divided party.

Crowd of demonstrators near the AfD party congress in Essen, Germany, on June 29, 2024
Tens of thousands of people took part in a protest against the far-right partyImage: Henning Kaiser/dpa/picture alliance

He also emphasized the growth of the party's membership. According to him, the AfD now has 46,881 members, 17,723 more than at the beginning of 2023. It's expected that the membership will exceed 50,000 by the fall, he added. 

Michaela Küfner, DW's chief political correspondent, was reporting from inside the AfD congress.

"What the AfD is doing is focusing on what it knows best  — which is its anti-migration stance," she said. "It has just proven that [it is a force to be reckoned with] in the European elections. And despite reports that there could be infighting here, the current heads of the party Alice Weidel and Tino Chrupalla just got reelected. So clearly, the AfD is set to capitalize on the issue it knows best."

AfD focuses on what it knows best: anti-immigration stance

Protesters, police clash outside AfD congress

Earlier Saturday, police used pepper spray and batons to stop a large group of protesters breaking through a cordon near where the congress was being held.

It was not clear if demonstrators were injured in the incident, which occurred at around 5:45 am (0345 GMT), but police said they made several arrests and some officers were attacked.

A few hundred protesters temporarily blocked the exit ramp of a motorway, while others occupied streets and intersections near the congress center.

"At one stage, AfD politicians and members needed police protection to get to the venue," said DW political correspondent Alex Gerst, adding that the protest had calmed down by mid-afternoon.

"Yes, there were clashes but fewer than expected. Mostly, it was a peaceful protest by members of church congregations, the Fridays for Future [climate movement] and Grandmothers Against the Far Right [Omas gegen Rechts]. They all came together to send the message that the city of Essen does not welcome the AfD party congress."

Protests as far-right AfD gathers for party conference

Police later reported that one officer had been seriously injured from kicks to the head and had to be taken to hospital. They had earlier said that two were in a serious condition, but the injuries of one of the officers proved to be less serious after a medical examination.

"Several disruptive violent actions occurred in the Ruettenscheld quarter. Demonstrators, some of them hooded, attacked security forces. Several arrests were made," police said in a statement.

Interior Minister Nancy Faeser wished the injured police officers a speedy recovery. "We need strong democratic forces and peaceful protest against right-wing extremism and racism," she wrote on X, adding that violence "cannot be justified by anything."

High security presence

Several thousand police officers were deployed as part of security measures to prevent civil disorder.

In all, some 100,000 protesters were expected to take part in the demos against the anti-immigration, archconservative AfD, which has been gaining support, particularly in the country's former communist east.

Although organizers said the protests would be peaceful, police feared violence from some 1,000 leftist extremists who also planned to demonstrate. Authorities appealed to demonstrators to "keep away from violent actions and troublemakers."

Some 5,000 protesters took part in a rally with music on Friday evening that had the motto "Bass gegen Hass" ("Bass against hate").

Essen authorities had tried for months to prevent the AfD from holding the two-day party conference in the city, but ultimately failed in court.

Spy agency monitoring AfD activities

The AfD is being monitored by the German domestic intelligence agency (BfV) as a suspected right-wing extremist organization. The agency has warned that the party poses a racist, antisemitic and anti-democratic threat to Germany.

Despite such warnings and a series of scandals, the party came second in Germany in the European Parliament elections on June 9 and even took first place in the five former communist eastern states.

It's also expected to become the strongest party in September elections in three of those eastern states — Saxony, Thuringia and Brandenburg — amid fears other parties will not be able to form a governing coalition.

The AfD's leaders are also looking to seize on the party's rising popularity, as Germany prepares for federal elections in the fall of 2025.

mm, tj/kb (AFP, dpa)

Germany's far-right AfD riding high despite setbacks

While you're here: Every Tuesday, DW editors round up what is happening in German politics and society. Sign up here for the weekly email newsletter Berlin Briefing.