A protest at which police deployed pepper stray against a crowd of 2,500 leftist agitators has become a source of anger after a copy of a right-wing magazine was photographed prominently in the window of a police van.
The copy of Compact featured the portrait of Alternative for Germany (AfD) leader Frauke Petry, and it was a demonstration by 500 of her party members to which the police had been deployed.
That a police officer would openly show support for a right-wing political party during the disturbance has sent shock-waves through German social media, and national English language broadcaster Deutsche Welle has called the reaction by the political left a “firestorm” over political neutrality.
2,500 left wing counter-protesters turned out to show their disapproval at the presence of 500 right-wing Germans demonstrating in support of AfD on Wednesday. When things turned violent, police led baton charges and used pepper spray.
— JG-Stadtmitte (@jgstadtmitte) March 9, 2016
The Twitter user who shared the image that brought the issue to the public asked “Do we have to worry about the neutrality of the Thuringia police, if something like this is in the windshield?”, and received an instant apology from Thuringa police, who insisted they were “nonpartisan”.
The force later backed this up with an official statement, saying: “all on-duty police officers are bound to uphold political neutrality. Since the incident with the magazine clearly violates this, the situation is being officially investigated”.
AfD has proven extremely controversial, not only in Germany where leader Frauke Petry and her colleagues offer the only significantly politically different opposition to the German coalition government, but also internationally. The New York Post ran an editorial this week describing her as “far right” and a member of a club of “preachers of hate”.
The AfD leader shot to prominence after she said German border guards should be unafraid to use their firearms as a means of last resort to prevent illegal crossings,a remark which was widely misinterpreted as a call to execute migrants at the border. The party has also courted comparison to United States presidential hopeful Donald Trump, as they have called for fences to be built along Germany’s southern border.
Party co-president Jörg Meuthen praised the six-metre fences employed by Spain at their African border this week, remarking: “Yes, fences have an impact”.
The party is expected to do well at this weekend’s local elections, as it benefits from anger generated from the lingering migrant crisis and the reluctance of Merkel’s government to change course.
Follow Oliver Lane on Twitter: Follow @Oliver_Lane or e-mail to: email@example.com