Sigmar Gabriel, the head of the Social Democrats and Germany's vice chancellor, has caused a stir with his unpolished, one-fingered reply to a group of right-wing protestors. The SPD has defended the offending gesture.
Sigmar Gabriel sent a clear message to a group of rowdy right-wingers on Wednesday, giving them the finger during a visit to the city of Salzgitter.
The gesture, which was caught on camera, quickly made headlines.
The demonstrators reportedly shouted "traitor!" as he passed and made references to his Nazi father, whom the leader of the Social Democrats (SPD) has publically condemned.
In response to outcries from the public following a report of the incident in "Bild" newspaper, the SPD released a statement defending their chief's behavior. In addition to being the head of the SPD, Gabriel also serves as vice chancellor and minister for economic affairs and energy.
"Sigmar Gabriel naturally doesn't consider the gesture an appropriate form of everyday communication. But such a form of communication wouldn't be possible with unruly and apparently violent neo-Nazis anyway," the SPD said.
The party added: "Ministers and SPD-chairmen are only human, too. In light of the massive insult directed at Sigmar Gabriel and his family, the gesture was clearly an emotional reaction. Sigmar Gabriel stands by his action."