Germany puts Querdenker group under observation
Germany's Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV) on Wednesday said it would keep parts of the anti-coronavirus lockdown movement under observation.
The BfV said elements of the so-called Querdenker (lateral thinking) group were of particular concern because they questioned the legitimacy of the state.
A new category of concern
Domestic intelligence officials said they feared that information disseminated during the pandemic would continue to spread even after it was over.
The movement does not fall into pre-existing categories of concern — such as far-right, far-left, or Islamist — but a new category, the BfV said.
For this reason, the German Interior Ministry said it had created a new category of "delegitimization of the state where relevant to constitutional protection."
This new categorization would make it possible to process cases both as suspected crimes and as proven extremist endeavors, the ministry said.
It added that the decision had been taken because protests against Germany's lockdown measures had been repeatedly used in a provocative way to escalate tensions.
Organizers, particularly those from the Querdenker movement, had "to an extent clearly shown that their agenda goes beyond mere mobilization to protest against the state's coronavirus protection measures."
Links to the far-right
The authorities also cited links between the Querdenker movement and the far-right Reichsbürger and individualist Selbstverwalter groups. Members of both consider themselves not to be subject to the laws of the German state.
Germany's Central Council of Jews welcomed the decision, saying it had become "urgently necessary," given the sway that the far-right held in the protest movement.
"This development must be stopped at all costs," said the council's president, Josef Schuster.
Observers say that radical conspiracy theories and far-right groups have become increasingly influential among those taking part in the protests.
Interior Minister Horst Seehofer said in mid-April that he expected such a step. "We have had a strong focus on this scene from the beginning. We are taking a close look at who is participating and the way they behave," he explained.
Some state authorities for the protection of the constitution, such as in Bavaria and Baden Württemberg, have already placed all or part of the Querdenker movement under observation.
rc/nm (dpa, KNA)