The Reichsbürger movement in Germany is on the rise and has tens of thousands of followers. Those involved in the movement reject the authority of the German state, some found their own kingdom — and some are armed.
The number of supporters of the Reichsbürger ("Citizens of the Reich") movement rose to around 16,500 in 2018, according to information from Germany's domestic intelligence agency, the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV).
The BfV said that according to their data, some 900 members of the Reichsbürger and self-governing movements are also right-wing extremists.
In the fall of 2016, when the agency first began surveillance on members of the movement, there were an estimated 10,000 followers.
Data from the beginning of the year showed that the southeastern state of Bavaria has the highest number of Reichsbürger in Germany, with an estimated 3,500 followers living there. The southwestern German state of Baden-Württemberg currently has an estimated 2,500 Reichsbürger, while the western state of North Rhine-Westphalia has around 2,200.
Fragmented and radical
No leader, no hierarchy or ideology: The Reichsbürger group is largely heterogeneous. While some are firm believers in conspiracy theories, others hold racist, anti-Semitic and right-wing extremist beliefs.
They are united by their refusal to recognize the authority of the German state, asserting instead that the German Reich continues to exist in its 1937 borders, despite the defeat of Nazi Germany in WWII.
Reichsbürger followers also often refuse to pay taxes or fines, and some use homemade IDs and registration plates. One member proclaimed himself king, others print their own currency.
They tend to be well-armed with legal or illegal weapons and have increasingly clashed with police. Authorities revoked weapons permits for 450 Reichsbürger followers by March of this year.
In October 2016, a member of the far-right group wounded three police officers and shot dead another in a shootout near Nuremberg. A week later, police discovered a weapons stockpile believed to belong to the same extremist group.