Europe, populism and the pandemic: what the crisis teaches us

Confusion and disinformation only serves tyrants. A passionate plea in defense of Europe’s humanistic values.

Demonstration against the Corona restrictions in front of Parliament on November 18. in Berlin Photo: Christoph Soeder / dpa

During the Corona curfew, my father hovered between life and death in the hospital in Paris. I experienced roadblocks, shielded hospitals, the cruel loneliness of the patient in the hands of the overburdened staff. I learned about the fear of relatives, who begged doctors to visit their loved ones and begged police officers to allow them to cross the deserted city.

I felt this feeling of heaviness: to be at the mercy of the humanity of others.

That’s what the crisis taught me. Each of us depends on the ability of others to be human at some point in our lives. The tide can turn quickly. Those who demonstrate today against the regulations to protect against the spread of Corona may tomorrow be the first to beg for solidarity.

They seem to me the expression of a triumphant individualism. An idea that everyone has the right to defend their little comfort, their wishes and opinions without limit. Social networks have given this development the means to succeed. A phenomenon that at first glance seems to serve democracy, but in reality threatens it with its maddening excesses.

Desire and collectivity

Because if everyone absolutely expects that every wish will be implemented by politicians, a joint decision is no longer possible. A collective project cannot result from the uncompromising juxtaposition of a multitude of different and sometimes antagonistic feelings.

Democracy depends on the ability of its citizens to understand the rules of the game. To respect you. The dialogue, the consensus, the compromises. And that means accepting that your own will cannot always be absolutely satisfied.

Rather, democracy is in danger if the principle of representation is slandered, members of the Bundestag are insulted and parliament is attacked. It is in danger if the legitimacy of experts and scientists is flatly rejected and empirically ascertainable facts are discredited. If you always think your own opinion is knowledge.

The past teaches us that a certain amount of confusion can lead to a lunatic representation of the world and can lead to murderous actions. In 1944, Theodor W. Adorno and Max Horkheimer describe such a development in the “Dialectic of Enlightenment”. Where one refuses to confront the opinion with that of others, to check it, it becomes a simple conviction, a simple explanation of the world that does not require your own reflection.

Reason and absoluteness

One takes refuge in the stubborn rejection of arguments, of factual evidence that contradicts one’s own convictions. A belief that often consists of a mixture of rumors, conspiracy theories and emotions. It leads to paranoia, in which every contradiction is perceived as a personal attack. One small step only to the insane deed.

Pandemics are just one of the many challenges that await us in the 21st century. In order to master them, humanistic values ​​as enshrined in the European constitutions will be of decisive importance. We must oppose those who try to discredit them as weak, naive, or deceptive. The common humanistic values ​​are the prerequisite for our survival.

The 20th century has shown us what man is capable of when he loses his humanity. It destroys itself. Today we are again confronted with world views that see people as a means and not an end. Which make it an instrument of a state apparatus, an ideology, an economic system or technological experiments.

Lies are systematically spread by authoritarian regimes in order to be able to better instrumentalize the population. Where freedom is restricted and repressive powers rule, people submit more willingly to serve as cogs in the machinery.

Authoritarian regimes

But even in the democracies of Europe there is a risk of losing sight of the lessons of history. It is not uncommon for me to meet people, also in my circle of friends, who openly admire China’s economic success or that of a world power like Vladimir Putin’s Russia. Even human rights crimes, such as Beijing’s genocide of the Uyghurs, pale into fascination with the law of profit or the virile self-presentation of power.

Some don’t necessarily vote for populist parties. They see themselves as tolerant and democratic. But they use populist rhetoric. Resentment and frustration are reinterpreted as “resistance” to “political correctness”. The more superficial the knowledge, the more provocative the defamatory slogans are.

It is believed that there is no consequence in spreading such an attitude and carelessly invoking the relativism of moral values. You think words don’t kill. And so you gradually forget to be the person you once were. And busy digging at the grave for freedom and democracy, in the name of a dehumanized system.

Certainly democracy thrives on strife, debate and diversity of opinion. An open society has to constantly rework its borders. That is precisely what gives her legitimation. Concerns about the health policy of the authorities, the weaknesses of democracy, should be articulated without moral censorship. But having only one opinion that is self-founded is a dangerous shortcoming.

Fundamental misunderstandings

It would be a fundamental misunderstanding to confuse violence with strength, ruthlessness with courage, money with success, quantity with quality, opinions with facts.

Such confusions show how much words can be robbed of their meaning. When language becomes contaminated in this way, there can be no more argumentative exchange, no real debate, no knowledge and no truth that we share with one another. A people that is no longer capable of judgment in this sense can be manipulated infinitely, Hannah Arendt once stated.

It is up to each of us in Germany and Europe to resist the disorientation that a minority is trying to promote effectively. Confusion and disinformation only serves tyrants. Our community of values, on the other hand, needs a clear orientation. Europe must give the words democracy, justice, courage and freedom themselves their meaning by living these humanistic values ​​unequivocally and conveying them to the citizens through education.

In Europe, human intellectual development must be the measure of progress, and not just economic performance or technological inventions. Otherwise “the fascination for large numbers” threatens to undermine our ability to appreciate what is difficult to measure in numbers: justice, truth, morality, freedom, the creative – man himself and the blurring of the human condition.

The irrational dimension

Humans cannot be reduced to statistics, algorithms, data. It is both rational and irrational. If the irrational dimension of man is denied, then demagogues use this blank space for their political purposes, to appeal to the lowest instincts of man and to satisfy their vulnerability to myths and conspiracy theories.

Humanistic values ​​are not a moral accessory that makes us look pretty. They help us to overcome challenges, to shape the future together and to recognize the dangers. They help us to live more consciously.

The more consistently Europe follows this path, the stronger its normative influence will be. The more credible his endeavor to serve the demands of man, to overcome his fear, his prejudices and his basic instincts – to transform his suffering into freedom and to rise to creative reason.

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Enemy list of Corona protesters: “Not known before”

A list of enemies appears in a chat group of coronaviruses. Experts warn of the movement’s anti-Semitism.

Anetta Kahane, Chairwoman of the Amadeu Antonio Foundation, at the press conference in Berlin Photo: Michael Kappeler / dpa

BERLIN taz | The tone of the corona protesters is getting rougher. In one of the scene’s Telegram groups, an enemy list with around 170 names of politicians and journalists appeared, with references such as “vaccination propaganda”, “BRD GmbH” or “Bill Gates”. Those named are referred to as “suspicious people who act in the interests of billiards”.

In addition to members of the federal government, the list also includes politicians from the CDU, SPD, the Left and the Greens. Only Bundeschef Jörg Meuthen is listed of the AfD. The personal data of those affected are not recorded, and the list was initially only distributed on a smaller channel.

Some of those affected, such as the Vice President of the Bundestag Petra Pau, reported that they reported. Anetta Kahane, chairwoman of the Amadeu Antonio Foundation, also on the list, spoke of a clear threat. “It’s like target markings for rabble or worse.”

BKA has known list since October

The BKA informed the taz that the list had been known since the end of October. The state police had been informed about it. A mere mention on such lists does not necessarily mean a danger for those concerned. But if more knowledge were added, measures would be taken.

Kahane warned on Tuesday at a press conference with SPD Vice-Vice President Kevin Kühnert and the Federal Anti-Semitism Commissioner Felix Klein of the rampant anti-Semitism in the protest movement. Conspiracy ideologies with an anti-Semitic core are said to be “unbelievably booming”, and hatred of Jews is intensifying on the protests. Her foundation has been active for a good 20 years, but: “We haven’t known that before.” The fact that demonstrators appear with a “Jewish star” or compare themselves to the resistance fighter Sophie Scholl, who was killed by Nazi thugs, is “perfidious” and one “Cynical perversion,” criticized Kahane.

Klein, who is also on the list of enemies, named hatred of Jews as a connecting element of previously separate milieus, from esoteric enthusiasts, peace movements to right-wing extremists. “The conspiracy narratives of supposedly secret powers connect the social center with radicalizing fringes.” Klein called this a danger to the foundations of society. For Kühnert, too, the protests revealed how widespread anti-Semitism was – a realization that “is part of everyday business for Jewish people”.

More contradiction, more prevention programs

Klein called for more contradiction. “We, the democratic majority, have to become louder and prevent radicalization wherever we perceive it.” The anti-Semitic attack in Halle had shown how quickly words could turn into deeds. Kahane called for more programs against anti-Semitism and conspiracy ideologies as well as better protection for Jewish citizens. Kühnert pleaded “to invest massively in research and prevention”. Central to this is a law promoting democracy, which secures civil society projects in the long term. The Union has so far rejected this.

Bavaria’s Prime Minister Markus Söder (CSU) and others recently also called for the protection of the Constitution to take a closer look at the protests. The Thuringian secret service chief Stephan Kramer joined this. It would be conceivable that the Office for the Protection of the Constitution would not put individual groups under observation, but rather the spectrum itself – like the citizens of the Reich recently.

A spokesman for Federal Interior Minister Horst Seehofer (CSU) recently emphasized that it is now clear that “extremists, Reich citizens and the like also appear” in the protests. In this respect, “an observation of this movement too is obvious and it also takes place”.

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Corona provocateurs in the Bundestag: “An absolute taboo break”

The AfD has smuggled troublemakers into the Bundestag who have harassed MPs. Parliament is now examining legal action – also against parliamentarians.

Bother: the AfD parliamentary group Photo: Michael Kappeler / dpa

BERLIN taz | The troublemakers harassed members of the Bundestag, filmed and verbally abused them – as guests of AfD politicians. What happened in the Reichstag building on Wednesday now has consequences. In the parliamentary council of elders, representatives of all parliamentary groups, with the exception of the AfD, urged that all sanction options be examined.

It was a “very intensive debate”, said the parliamentary manager of the Greens, Britta Haßelmann. The incidents in the Reichstag were an “absolute breach of taboo” that was unacceptable. Her colleague from the Left Party, Jan Korte, also spoke of a one-off event. “That must have consequences. And that will also have consequences. ”Haßelmann demanded that sanctions against MPs who are responsible for them should also be examined. You assume a “concerted action”.

According to taz information, the parliamentary managing directors of all parliamentary groups, with the exception of the AfD, urged parliamentary president Wolfgang Schäuble (CDU) to react hard. This is unusual: Usually the board acts rather cautiously. The FDP parliamentary group is also examining a criminal complaint against the three AfD MPs. “Aiding and abetting members of a constitutional body is conceivable,” explained its parliamentary director Marco Buschmann.

The Bundestag convenes a current hour

The government factions also requested a current hour in the Bundestag on the incidents on Friday. Title: “Denouncing the harassment of MPs – protecting parliamentary democracy”.

On Wednesday, right-wing activist Rebecca Sommer – parallel to the vote on the new Infection Protection Act in the Bundestag and protests by corona victims in front of it – pressed MPs in the parliamentary corridors and asked them with a camera about their voting behavior. Federal Minister of Economics Peter Altmaier (CDU) insulted them as an “asshole” and “inflated, little wanna-be king”. Also Green parliamentary leader Anton Hofreiter and the FDP deputy Konstantin Kuhle were harassed by summer.

At least temporarily she was accompanied by the Youtubers Ilia T. and Daniela S. as well as the conspiracy ideologist Thorsten Schulte, who also appears under the pseudonym “Silver Boy”. The activists moved unaccompanied in the Bundestag and filmed a live stream. There they also warmly welcomed former civil rights activist Angelika Barbe, who had drifted to the right and who was also there as a visitor.

According to a security report by the Bundestag, the group and Barbe later also broke into offices on the sixth floor of the Jakob-Kaiser-Haus and filmed the Corona rally from there – “despite the protests of the office workers present”. The Bundestag police intervened and accompanied the group out of the house.

Three AfD men invited the troublemakers

According to the report, the four activists were invited by AfD MPs: Rebecca Sommer from Petr Bystron, Ilia T. and Thorsten Schulte from Udo Hemmelgarn and Daniela S. from Hansjörg Müller. All three AfD men are close to the corona protesters and some of them had also attended the rally in front of the Bundestag.

In the morning, Bystron and Müller initially denied having invited the activists. Hemmelgarn had only granted an invitation for Schulte. He “completely rejects” insulting Altmaier, he told the taz. The AfD parliamentary group leaders Alice Weidel and Alexander Gauland also spoke of “unacceptable behavior”. The AfD parliamentary group never invited guests with the aim of hindering MPs in their work.

In the afternoon, the AfD MP Bystron changed his statement. Rebecca Sommer was originally invited by another MP, he now told the taz. When he was sick, his office manager invited the “journalist” to “help”. Bystron put the pressure on Altmaier into perspective: Rebecca Sommer “interviewed” many MPs without any problems. “The fact that Mr. Altmaier fled from her shows that he wanted to avoid uncomfortable questions.”

Security precautions were tightened

Because of the corona protests, the Bundestag tightened its security precautions on Wednesday. If MPs are otherwise allowed to take six guests into Parliament at their own risk, all visitors were registered on that day – and were thus clearly assigned to the MPs who invited them. According to the security report, the four provocateurs only had entries in the files of the Bundestag police for one person. The police had spoken to them when they entered and they had been advised to comply with the house rules.

Economics minister Altmaier is not planning a criminal complaint, it said from his ministry. The CDU politician said he was “depressed” that MPs were being harassed. At the urging of Rebecca Sommer, he himself had expressed his approval of the Infection Protection Act because his voters wanted it that way. The activist then insulted him as “completely aloof”.

Sommer was already noticed at events of the AfD and Union of Values ​​and changed from a refugee helper to a right wing representative. The conspiracy ideologist Thorsten Schulte had already announced in advance on his Telegram channel that he would be in the Bundestag on Wednesday to take action against the “Merkel salivators”. He and others are “properly registered”.

Also visited Bundestag offices

The Bundestag police are also following up indications that those who played down the corona should also have visited Bundestag offices on Wednesday. According to the security report, two people with the camera running turned up unannounced in a Bundestag office at noon and wanted to submit a petition there. You are said to have presented yourself as an employee of another parliamentary group.

On the same day, AfD MP Johannes Huber published a video in which he was filmed by another person visiting the offices of SPD MPs Karl Lauterbach and Rolf Mützenich as well as CDU parliamentary group leader Ralph Brinkhaus and attempting “Petitions “To be handed over by opponents of the Corona measures. In the video, Huber also criticizes some of the politicians as “unteachable”.

In the meantime, President of the Bundestag Wolfgang Schäuble (CDU) has written a letter to all MPs. In it he speaks of “very serious incidents” that would have triggered “various fears and fears” among MPs and employees. “We must not allow that in the German Bundestag,” says the letter that the taz has received. He therefore asked the administration “to examine all legal possibilities to take action against the perpetrators and those who gave them access to the properties of the Bundestag”, Schäuble continued. In addition, he is having a look at how the rules of the Bundestag can be supplemented in order to act more effectively against abuse like last Wednesday. The Bundestag will debate the incidents this Friday from 9 a.m.

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Police operation against corona deniers: children in the rain

The police receive praise for their efforts. The water cannons remained without pressure because there were children among the demonstrators. Is that correct?

Use of water cannons against corona deniers Photo: Paul Zinken

BERLIN taz | Shortly after 12 o’clock on Wednesday it began to rain between the Brandenburg Gate and the Reichstag. Two water cannons advanced on the crowd of corona deniers to disperse the previously dissolved gathering, from which the pressure on the police chain grew. For the Berlin police, the mission was something special. It has been over seven years since they last used their water cannons, during protests against an NPD march on May 1, 2013 in Schöneweide.

Five water cannons were in use for several hours on Wednesday. The fact that many demonstrators did not back down is due, on the one hand, to their radicalization – their delusional idea that the Infection Protection Act, which was passed in the Bundestag at the same time, would abolish fundamental rights.

On the other hand, the effect remained limited because the water cannons did not spray a hard jet, but instead let a rain shower over the crowd. Police spokesman Thilo Cablitz reasoned: “We cannot use the direct beam because there are children among them.”

In social media and Telegram groups, the child question dominated many discussions, which mainly knew two Poles: One was angry about a campaign against “peacefully demonstrating children and pensioners” as a further sign of an increasingly authoritarian state. The others accused the demonstrators of acting irresponsibly by even bringing children to such a demonstration, or writing that children had been “abused as protective shields”. Leftists pointed out that the police would crack down on their demos.

Well-groomed demonstrators

Many observers and journalists who reported directly on the protests were surprised at the reference to children. In the first rows there were mostly middle-aged men, some even with protective goggles and rain caps. Among them was a little who’s who of the right-wing scene: from Halle neo-Nazi Sven Liebich, who shouted: “Shoot the first rows dead”, to comradeship and ex-NPD member Thomas Wulff to Brandenburg AfD member Lars Günther.

Niklas Schrader, left

“London rain and not a Stuttgart jet”

Cablitz defended the action against the taz. At the beginning of the mission, a child of about ten years was in the front rows. That excludes the use of the hard jet, the effect of which he describes as “immense”. While the police acted directly against aggressive interferers in the first rows, a large area was irrigated. “There were parents who made fun of everyone being wet,” said Cablitz.

Benjamin Jendro, spokesman for the Berlin police union, spoke to the taz of a “difficult operation” because “thousands broke the rules”. He assessed the use of the water cannons as a “clear sign that the police had no other options” after they had not achieved any success with conditions, announcements and addresses to individuals.

Jendro also justified the moderate use of water cannons with children in the crowd. Attempts were made to disperse people in order to be able to “better select troublemakers”. In view of the danger for police officers of being infected in the crowd by people without mouth and nose protection, he repeated his demand for a temporary restriction of the permitted size of the gathering.

Coalition agrees

On the part of the domestic political spokesman for the Greens and the Left, there is also praise for the effort, as is the case from Interior Senator Geisel (SPD), who described the deployment as necessary. “Well done,” is the verdict of the green Benedikt Lux. It was right to proceed more consistently than in the last corona denier demos. “The police reacted very calmly, prudently and with a sense of proportion.” To break up the meeting was a backbreaking job, said Lux.

The leftist Niklas Schrader also saw the police much better prepared this time. When the water cannons came up, he had to swallow and think of the events on Black Thursday, the protest against the new Stuttgart 21 station, when a demonstrator lost a large part of his eyesight due to the hard beam. But: What came out of the water cannon nozzles on Wednesday, according to Schrader, was “London rain and not a Stuttgart jet”: “Seen in this way, the procedure was okay.”

A total of 2,500 police officers were on duty during the protests, 365 people were taken into custody, more than for a long time. Pre-trial detention is checked for two people on suspicion of serious breach of the peace. 77 out of 2,500 police officers were injured, three of whom were treated in hospital. A policewoman was kicked in the head.

Right-wing corona deniers want to take to the streets again on Sunday for a silent march that starts at 12 noon on Bornholmer Straße. Left groups have announced counter-protests.

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Corona protests in Berlin: bottles and firecrackers thrown after the demo

Opponents of the pandemic policy demonstrate in Berlin, many ignore the corona rules. The police broke up the demonstration, but many do not want to leave.

Police water cannons are used near the Brandenburg Gate Photo: Paul Zinken / dpa

BERLIN taz | The police in Berlin have been using water cannons against corona deniers who are demonstrating in the Bundestag against the passage of the Infection Protection Act since noon. At a police cordon between the Brandenburg Gate and the Reichstag, thousands of demonstrators had huddled in front of the police and the pressure on the chain kept increasing. In order to prevent a storm on the Reichstag, the demonstrators should now be pushed back.

Shortly before 12 noon, the police had dissolved the event, which had previously been allowed as an emergency meeting, due to violations of the Corona regulation, all requests to maintain distances and wear masks had been ignored. Again and again there had been clashes at the cordon, and police officers used pepper spray to hold back the crowd. With the use of the water cannon, however, more and more violent protesters gathered and pelted the emergency services with bottles and firecrackers, among other things.

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After more than an hour, the police only managed to push the crowd back about 100 meters to the Platz des March 18th in front of the Brandenburg Gate. At the same time, other water cannons were also in use on the Strasse des 17. Juni from the early afternoon. More than 100 people were arrested by 3 p.m. According to the police, attempts were also made to set fire to an emergency vehicle using a grill lighter.

In the afternoon, more and more people, many completely soaked, move from the Brandenburg Gate in the direction of Potsdamer Platz and the Federal Council. There, the country representatives should also pass the law. The police have completely cordoned off Leipziger Strasse in front of the building. Nevertheless, protests are made within sight and hearing distance: from a shopping center opposite.

Extreme rights among the protesters

The area around the Reichstag had been cordoned off extensively since the morning hours, and events in the exclusion zone had been prohibited. From the early morning, demonstrators had gathered in front of the Brandenburg Gate. Your battle cry of the day: “Peace, freedom, no dictatorship”. Initially a few hundred people, including anti-vaccination opponents, esotericists, angry citizens and neo-Nazis, had grown to at least 10,000 by noon. The Straße des 17. Juni was densely packed between the Brandenburg Gate and Yitzhak-Rabin-Straße.

On the street were numerous prominent representatives of the extreme right and the AfD, including the Holocaust denier and Youtuber Nikolai Nerling, who was taken away by police that morning, the right-wing journalist Jürgen Elsässer or Christoph Berndt, the new AfD parliamentary group leader from Brandenburg, and his predecessor Andreas Kalbitz.

The AfD member of the Bundestag Karsten Hilse was taken into custody by the police. He is said to have previously refused to put on a mouth and nose mask and resisted, according to the police.

Before the escalation began, a delegation made up of AfD members and employees distributed flyers among the demonstrators and promised to vote against the law. In parliament, AfD members protested with posters showing a basic law that was crossed out with a kind of mourning ribbon. People who had gained access to the building through the party are also said to have harassed members of several parliamentary groups and tried to break into offices.

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New Infection Protection Act: Parliament as a brake block

The new infection protection law was waved through too hastily. It would also have been appropriate to give Parliament more rights.

Angela Merkel speaks with members of the Bundestag plenary Photo: Kay Nietfeld / dpa

In fact, the Prime Ministers of the federal states and the Chancellor decide in their regular round how the pandemic will continue. The actors in this body are of course democratically legitimized through elections – but this body is not provided for in the constitution. Parliament, on the other hand, has nothing to report on the specific decisions. This grievance recently became clear when Chancellor Merkel presented to the Bundestag what had been decided but could no longer be changed by the Bundestag.

The government tends to see parliament as a brake block that delays the necessary through lengthy debates. In addition, the pandemic fight has so far been based on regulations – an unpleasant situation in view of the scope of the measures for democracy. It is therefore a good thing that the Bundestag is now passing a law that changes this. But the way this happens is disturbing, the result unsatisfactory.

At the beginning of the pandemic, imminent danger and rapid action by the state were required. However, the new Infection Protection Act will be passed three quarters of a year after the outbreak of the pandemic. And yet it suddenly has to happen very quickly. The law was hastily corrected after the expert hearing. But when restrictions on civil rights are negotiated, time pressure is detrimental.

It may be that the corona measures are now legally on firmer ground and courts will not overturn restrictions so easily. This is not a good deal for Parliament. The SPD wanted the Bundestag to have a say – the Union resisted: The government’s room for maneuver should not be restricted. But that is a logic of the state of emergency that no longer applies if the restrictions are still required for months.

No misunderstanding: It is not about Parliament cutting a good figure to influence lateral thinkers in terms of popular education. This scene is moving further and further away from any reasonable discourse. She is not ostracized, she is ostracizing herself. In addition, right-wing extremists are increasingly hijacking the protests. The Groko missed an opportunity with this law. Comprehensible criteria for anti-coronary measures? Nothing. The Chancellor and Prime Minister will continue to decide whether restaurants are open or closed. Parliament can debate it later. It would have been wise to give the Bundestag more rights. That failed because of the Union, the SPD gave in. That will be remembered.

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Protest against pandemic measures: Corona downplayers seek violence

Opponents of the corona measures and right-wing extremists want to besiege the Bundestag on Wednesday. Protest in the immediate vicinity is prohibited.

Only peaceful protests are allowed around the Bundestag in Berlin Photo: Annette Riedl / dpa

It’s supposed to be some kind of siege. On Wednesday, people who played down the corona and right-wing extremists mobilized to the Bundestag in Berlin to demonstrate against the passage of the new infection protection law there – with sometimes martial rhetoric.

Parliament wants to pass the new Infection Protection Act at noon, in which, for example, orders for protective measures such as mask obligations are named in more detail. In contrast, opponents of the corona measures have been mobilizing for days. In appeals, there is talk of an “enabling law”, the threat of the introduction of a “health dictatorship”. Wednesday was “the day of the decision”, it was about “the most important demo in German post-war history”.

The NPD and Reich citizens also call for the protests. And here the tone is even sharper. The tenor was that the time of peaceful protest was over. You have to block the Bundestag to prevent the law. “We will drive the government out of office,” writes one user. Another: “Berlin must be on fire.” The security authorities noted a “nationwide mobilization by extremist groups” and “occasional specific calls for violence”.

Most recently there had been riots in Leipzig during protests by people who played down the corona and right-wing extremists. At the end of August they ran on the steps of the Bundestag in Berlin. For Wednesday, the opponents of the corona measures announced several rallies from 9 a.m. with 250 to 4,000 participants. The police expected around 10,000 demonstrators in an internal assessment.

Attacks on government buildings expected

On Tuesday evening, however, the Federal Ministry of the Interior, in agreement with the Bundestag, prohibited protests in the direct vicinity of Parliament. The Bundestag is considered a “pacified district”. It is surrounded by a ban mile in which demonstrations are generally prohibited – unless they are permitted by the Federal Ministry of the Interior. This happens regularly when a peaceful course is expected. However, the Interior Ministry does not see this for the corona protest: “These requirements are not met.” It referred to the announced blockades of the Bundestag access.

The Bundestag’s security officer had previously referred to an LKA assessment in a circular to the MPs, according to which attacks on “state buildings” are to be expected, including “health hazards for those seeking access”. In the letter that the taz has received, tightened admission controls and additional control points at connecting points between the Bundestag buildings are announced. It is possible that some entrances would have to be closed at will due to the situation. The aim is to maintain the ability of the Bundestag to work.

Berlin’s police chief Barbara Slowik and Interior Senator Andreas Geisel (SPD) had already announced on Monday that they would proceed against violations such as ignoring mouth and nose protection “hard and resolute, but also with a sense of proportion”. A police spokesman told the taz on Tuesday that they also wanted to ensure that access to the Bundestag was not blocked. Such attempts would be “consistently punished”.

The Berlin Office for the Protection of the Constitution warned that right-wing extremists had instrumentalized the corona protest, and in some cases also initiated it. There were “no attempts at delimitation” from the other demonstrators.

Support from the AfD

One of the original protest organizers for Wednesday, a group of anti-vaccination groups, has since withdrawn their registration. The reason is the risk of “violent confrontations after a massive mobilization of left and right-wing extremist groups”. On Wednesday, however, the protest will continue to be “unorganized”. Another group of people who played down the corona reacted immediately and declared that they would take over the organization of the demo.

The recently very active lateral thinker groups do not mobilize directly to the protests, but share the calls – a possible attempt to be able to pull yourself out of responsibility in the event of a riot. They called for members of the Bundestag to be covered with letters of protest. SPD General Secretary Lars Klingbeil (SPD) criticized the action on Tuesday. That the Infection Protection Act is equated with the “Enabling Act” argues “completely against our history”. It’s about “breaking, splitting”.

On the other hand, the AfD sided with the protesters. Their MP Karsten Hilse, who last appeared in the Bundestag with a lateral thinking shirt, also spoke of an “enabling law”, his colleague Robby Schlund of an emerging “health dictatorship”. AfD boss Tino Chrupalla announced that his parliamentary group would “oppose the law as one”. This is an “overexploitation of our democracy”.

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Conspiracy ideologues on a demonstration in Frankfurt: “Unconventional thinkers” turn freely

The conspiracy ideological “lateral thinkers” met on Saturday in Frankfurt. The police used force against counter-demonstrators.

Full load on “something with fascism” poster: Frankfurt am Main, November 15, 2020 Photo: Boris Rössler / dpa

FRANKFURT AM MAIN taz | The self-proclaimed “lateral thinkers” initially gathered across from Frankfurt Central Station. The group looked mixed. Older men with longer hair were present as well as a young woman wrapped in a Kemal Ataturk flag.

A colleague and I tried to photograph the files in the demo. After a very short time we were approached by officers from the Frankfurt police: The meeting participants did not want this. We are asked to refrain from recording and, if necessary, to delete it. After showing our press cards, the officer finally returned to his colleagues. He made a quiff gesture with both hands. Apparently we are not believed to be journalists.

This procedure was still on during the demo by the German Association of Journalists Twitter complains: “We expect that the #press freedom is absolutely respected and can be reported unhindered! Your job is to protect journalists, not to hinder their work. Do we actually have to repeat this for every demo? “

The answer that basically everyone is entitled to make image and sound recordings of public meetings is answered by saying that the whole thing has not yet been evaluated in its entirety and no details are known.

Water cannons against counter-demonstrators

Again and again counter-demonstrators succeed in bringing the train of “lateral thinkers” to a standstill for a long time. Their demonstration procession only begins with a 50-minute delay. The reason for this is the road blockades that the conspiracy theorists use to demonstrate, but above all the failure to comply with the demo requirements.

Water cannons are repeatedly used against the counter-demonstrators. The police storm a peaceful blockade at the intersection of Niddastraße-Weserstraße. She finally snatches one of the front banners from it. Some protesters go down.

A short time later, the police broke up the “lateral thinkers” demonstration. Due to the attempts to block the counter-demonstrators, it seems that there is no getting through. It is true that the police repeatedly use their loudspeaker van to point out violations of the demonstration requirements. However, she does not intervene until the announced period of the demonstration has passed and disband the train. The participants then move towards the city center.

This is where “lateral thinkers” mix with anti-fascist activists. However, the action remains peaceful. Towards the end of the rally, the full extent of the march of the conspiracy theorists becomes visible: More than 2,000 people gathered on the Rathenauplatz. People are standing close together, and the police repeatedly point out that the obligation to wear a mouth and nose cover is not being observed. Some wear masks made of porous vegetable nets. Often we journalists are bullied by the participants.

Frankfurt is not the place

Shortly before a family doctor can speak on stage, masked police officers enter the stage and take over the microphone. The final rally is dissolved. The reason for this are repeated massive violations of the demo requirements that dragged on throughout the day. The transmission on the LED screen disappears. Cheers broke out on the part of the counter-demonstrators.

Later in the evening, the police will have problems removing 80 lateral thinkers from the location of the final rally. After a long time, water cannons are also used against them. According to a police report, a participant of the “lateral thinker” bites a policewoman in the leg.

At the end of the day the “lateral thinkers” seem to agree that Frankfurt is not the place to be able to hold such events. Rather, Leipzig is now the place of choice, where to go for November 21st. mobilize again.

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AfD federal party conference may take place: Not nice, but right

It cannot be ruled out that the AfD party congress will become a superspreading event. Nevertheless, it is correct that the city of Kalkar has now approved it.

Inside the party under attack: AfD boss Jörg Meuthen Photo: dpa

The city of Kalkar has approved that the AfD’s federal party conference can be held at the fair there on the last weekend in November. Despite Corona and shutdown light. You can find that terrible because you consider the AfD to be right-wing extremists anyway, want stricter corona regulations or fear that the party congress could become a superspreading event.

In principle, however, it is right that ministries and authorities check very carefully what is prohibited because of the pandemic. Parties are an important part of democracy and are therefore under special protection and have special rights – even in times of pandemic. This applies to all parties that are not prohibited. So also for the AfD. Nevertheless, one does not have to like the fact that of all people, the party that likes to agitate against the allegedly depraved party democracy now benefits particularly from it. But that is also part of democracy.

It is still wrong that the party congress is now likely to take place. Because, of course, a two-day meeting in a closed room, to which 600 delegates and 150 journalists could travel, assumes an increased risk of infection. Especially because a good number of corona skeptics will come together in Kalkar who think little of protective measures.

It is only logical that the AfD is proceeding differently from the CDU, the Greens and the Left, who have either postponed their party conventions or hold online. After all, the party is fighting the corona measures, and many AfD members have doubts about the danger of the virus or even deny its existence. For a long time, the party, which has lost the mobilization issue, has been trying to dock with the corona skeptic movement – so far without much success. With the party congress, staged as a resistance, but it could score points in this milieu.

It was not without reason that party leader Jörg Meuthen recently announced that he wanted to apply for approval for the party congress if necessary. The city of Kalkar has now taken this opportunity from the AfD to make it public. The fact that the party now wants to take legal action against the mask requirement at the square, which is part of the necessary requirements, should also have something to do with it.

The federal meeting is also an important sign within the party. The exclusion from the party of right-wing extremist Andreas Kalbitz has built up a lot of resentment against part of the AfD leadership. If this part of party leader Meuthen and Vice Beatrix von Storch were in favor of another postponement, it would look like cowardly ducking away. Especially since Meuthen cannot prevail with his original position in the content-related part of the event, the adoption of a pension concept. And the other part is hoping for a settlement anyway.

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Expert on conspiracy myths: “Every third party has losses”

Those who lose income in the pandemic are more likely to believe in conspiracy myths. Sociologist Bettina Kohlrausch on the danger that arises from it.

Above all, people with already low incomes are affected by losses Photo: Martin Meissner / ap

taz: Ms. Kohlrausch, you researched the income losses due to the corona pandemic in two surveys among more than 6,000 respondents. So who is particularly affected by financial losses?

Bettina Kohlrausch: Around 32 percent of those surveyed stated that they had suffered a loss of income in April and / or June. Losses in the corona pandemic often affect people who already have low incomes. Certain groups – such as parents, people with a migration background, self-employed, contract workers and mini-jobbers – also lost income more than average.

44, is a sociologist at the WSI Institute of the Hans Boeckler Foundation and a professor at the University of Paderborn.

Is that because people with low incomes mainly work in those industries that are particularly hard hit during the corona pandemic, such as retail and gastronomy?

Even if you factor out the influence of the industry, people on low incomes are more likely to have to forego salary. It is more likely that people with low incomes are the weakest in the company; they are most likely to be sent on short-time work or, if they are precariously employed as temporary workers or mini-jobbers, dismissed. These people can usually not do a home office like middle or senior employees.

Do people with a migrant background often work in low-skilled jobs and therefore lose income?

Respondents with a family history of immigration lost income almost 6 percent more often than respondents without this background. And this regardless of which school leaving certificate and level of qualification they had and in which industry they worked.

How can this be explained?

This is possibly an indication of discrimination processes. We know that people are more likely to protect those who are similar to them and to set themselves apart from those who are not. This means that it is conceivable that in companies in which the volume of working hours is reduced, employees with a migration background are more likely to be sent to short-time or part-time work or to unemployment than employees without this background, which would be a case of discrimination.

How does loss of income affect personal political attitudes?

Respondents who had lost incomes were not only worried about their own economic situation far more often, but also see greater dangers for social cohesion and democracy in Germany – and they are critical of the corona measures. Forty percent of these people expressed concern that “restrictions on fundamental rights” will not be fully withdrawn after the crisis.

Does this mean that people with income losses are more likely to feel like victims and then go in search of the culprit?

Among those surveyed with income losses, 45 percent agreed that the pandemic may be used by the elites to enforce the interests of the rich and powerful. Among those who had not suffered any loss, only 36 percent agreed with this sentence. For me this means that the receptivity to conspiracy myths is increased. Such attitudes can have a socially destabilizing effect. When dealing with crises, one must therefore always keep an eye on the perception of social justice.

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