Protests against right-wing Pro NRW remain peaceful | Germany| News and in-depth reporting from Berlin and beyond | DW | 06.05.2013
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Protests against right-wing Pro NRW remain peaceful

The images are burned into local memory: A year ago, a demonstration by the right-wing Pro NRW group ended in violent clashes between police and Salafist protesters in Bonn. This year, the demonstrations were peaceful.

Gegendemonstration Pro NRW Demo am 05.05.2013 in Bonn-Bad Godesberg. Copyright: DW/Marcus Lütticke

Demonstration der Partei Pro NRW

It is hot on this Sunday afternoon at the Theaterplatz in Bonn-Bad Godesberg's city center. Police vans are parked along the house fronts. A majority of Theaterplatz is cordoned off. Behind the cordon, 400 people have gathered to protest against a demonstration by the right-wing group Pro NRW.

"We are here today to deny Pro NRW a platform and to demonstrate peacefully for tolerance," says one of the protestors. The 32-year-old from Bonn holds up a sign, with two colorful cartoon horses, that says "Ponys instead of Nazis!"

"I've noticed that you can bring attention to yourself with nonsense," he says and winks.

At this point, there's still nothing to see of the announced demonstration by Pro NRW. And so the 400 protesters from the alliance "Bonn stellt sich quer" (Bonn stands its ground) devote themselves to the speakers on their own stage, listen to music, enjoy the summer temperatures and discuss with one another.

Demonstration der Partei Pro NRW am 05.05.2013 in Bonn-Bad Godesberg. Copyright: DW/Marcus Lütticke

In 2012, a Pro NRW demonstration sparked violence between Islamists and police

But not all of them came to the protest intentionally. Tariq K. just wanted to take a walk and then noticed that party of the city center had been cordoned off.

"I had read about it, but I didn't now that it was today," The 51-year-old says, after spontaneously joining the protest.

Suddenly, it gets loud. Whistles and anti-fascist protest slogans sound out across Theaterplatz. The police assemble in front of the cordon fence. At the other end of the square, a black mini-bus has arrived and a handful of Pro NRW activists begin to set up their loudspeakers. Is this supposed to be the several hundred right-wing demonstrators that Pro NRW had announced on the Internet?

Surprise sit-in

"Pro-NRW has registered 100 to 150 participants," says police spokesman Ulrich Fassbender. His colleagues add that presumably two busloads will show up. But for now, the right-wing extremists bombard the square with a curious mix of pop and classical music. "Looking for Freedom" by David Hasselhoff drones from the loudspeakers.

It becomes chaotic on the square. Police stream in from several corners and take up position in front of Pro NRW's loudspeakers. Around 25 counter-demonstrators appear seemingly out of nowhere and begin a sit-in. The police immediately form a circle around the counter-demonstrators. At the same time, 40 Pro NRW demonstrators post themselves immediately in front of the encircled group. There is no physical confrontation.

Gegendemonstration Pro NRW Demo am 05.05.2013 in Bonn-Bad Godesberg. Copyright: DW/Marcus Lütticke

Counter-demonstrators formed a sit-in to block Pro NRW

"We don't have any indications that it will be violent today," Fassbender says. "You certainly cannot rule that out, given the nature of the issue, but at the moment there are no indications of violence."

Yet the police have made intensive preparations for the demonstrations. The memories of May 2012 are too bitter, when violent Salafists showed up during a Pro NRW demo and seriously injured police officers.

No violence

But it remains quiet this year. Only for a moment does it become chaotic again, when a water bottle is thrown from the ranks of Pro NRW at the encircled sit-in. After a short scuffle, the situation is brought under control again.

For an hour, speakers at the right-wing rally decry Islam and hold up signs with pictures of crossed out mosques on them. Bad Godesberg is considered a center of Islamist activity in Germany.

For the numerous members of the press and a few police officers, there is a chance to cool off after the demonstrations. An ice cream parlor is directly behind the area where the Pro NRW camp is set up. Normally, such a warm day would bring a lot of customers, but the cordon has largely killed the day's business.

"Police and journalists - that's it," says the annoyed server, who has worked at the parlor for a decade. "Our customers aren't here today." In all his years here, he cannot remember a comparable day.

Around three o'clock in the afternoon, the whole fuss is over. The Pro NRW activists withdraw and Theaterplatz becomes quiet again. The police are happy with the successful and largely uneventful operation. The alliance "Bonn stellt sich quer" is also content with the day's events. And in the ice cream parlor, there is hope that the rest of the day will at least bring a bit of business.

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