Germany’s domestic intelligence chief has labeled critics of the government’s harsh COVID-19 policies “enemies of the state” who’ve rejected the country’s liberal democracy.
Over the weekend, during a sit-down interview with the newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine, Thomas Haldenwang, the president of Germany’s Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution, had choice words for the country’s anti-lockdown protesters, vaccine skeptics, and so-called ‘lateral thinkers,’ branding them “enemies of the state” who “fundamentally reject the democratic state.”
Individuals in this particular milieu can no longer be categorized as right-wing or left-wing extremists, the domestic spy chief told the newspaper, claiming that those opposed to the country’s COVID policies are not bound by ideology but by their contempt for Germany’s democratic constitutional state and its representatives.
“They fundamentally reject our democratic political system,” Haldenwang asserted, insisting that the pandemic is merely an excuse used by these non-conformists to revolt against the state apparatus.
“Whether its Corona, refugee policy, or the flood disaster, these people are trying to create the impression that the state is failing and not doing anything for the people,” the spy chief continued.
Haldenwang also highlighted the existence of “increasingly strong parallels” between the Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the Occident (PEGIDA) movement and the disparate groups taking part in the so-called ‘Corona Walks.” Sometimes the same slogans are used, he told the interviewer.
Haldenwang’s statements followed a chaotic weekend which saw sizeable anti-lockdown demonstrations take place in several cities across the country. On Saturday in Düsseldorf, a demonstration that police described “largely trouble-free and peaceful,” saw some 7,000 people gather to voice their opposition to vaccine mandates. On the same day, thousands participated in similar demonstrations in Freiburg, Hamburg, Augsburg, and Cottbus.
Over the past several weeks, the character of the anti-lockdown demonstration witnessed throughout Germany has morphed considerably. While in the past it was common to see a few large demonstrations on weekends, recently displays of dissent have become increasingly decentralized with more and more people are taking to the streets. For instance, in the first week of January alone, more than 1,000 events—which collectively saw more than 200,000 protesters take to the streets–were organized in a single day.
In closing, the intelligence head expressed concern that the “radical nature” of some demonstrators is not only expressed through “violence against the police and media representatives,” but also through so-called hate speech across the internet.
“It is striking that the police are increasingly coming into focus as an enemy. Task forces are increasingly being attacked not only during the protests, but also in virtual space and defamed, for example, as ‘mercenaries’ or ‘murderers of the system’,” said Haldenwang.
As the strength and vigor of COVID demonstrations appear to be on the upswing across Germany, a growing number of ministers have called for messaging app Telegram–the primary organizational tool used by protesters–to be banned, as The European Conservative has previously reported.
Robert Semonsen is a political journalist based in Central Europe. His work has been featured in various English-language news outlets in Europe and the Americas. He has an educational background in biological and medical science. His Twitter handle is @R_Semonsen.