Police in Cologne have banned the far-right National Democratic Party (NPD) from holding a demonstration at the Cologne cathedral square on New Year’s Eve over safety concerns.
The far-right party had intended to hold a demonstration at the scene of the mass sex attacks which occurred on New Year’s Eve of last year. The party had made a formal request via a private individual to hold the demonstration, but police expressed doubts that the safety of the participants or of the public could be maintained, Der Spiegel reports.
Police gave a statement on the matter saying that holding the event could lead to “serious threats to public security, which can not be countered.” The NPD still reserve the right to protest the ban through an administrative process, but it is unknown if the ban could be overturned by New Year’s Eve on Saturday.
Despite the ban on the demonstration, the Cologne branch of the NPD still advertises the New Year’s Eve protest on their Facebook page. The event, entitled “Rally: Because an arm’s length distance is not longer sufficient,” is a clear attack on controversial Cologne mayor Henriette Reker who told women to defend themselves against migrant attackers by “keeping them at arm’s length.”
Even if the event were not banned, the turnout would likely be low as the Facebook event page shows only 42 people going and a further 193 interested in the event.
The NPD have been accused of breaching the German constitution for over a decade and authorities have tried to ban the far-right party for years. Earlier this year German constitutional judges heard the case which accused the NPD of fostering a “climate of fear” and said the party is a threat to German democracy. The court ruling is expected to be made public January 17th.
The timing of the demonstration was not set to take place during the day, but roughly around the same hours as when last year’s sex attacks took place from 10pm at night to 4am Sunday morning.
Many left-wing activists have accused the party of trying to exploit the sex attacks to gain votes in the North Rhine-Westphalia region where in the last regional elections in 2012 they polled below two per cent of the vote winning no seats.
The security situation in the Cologne cathedral square is set to drastically increase since last year when police were unable to handle the hundreds of migrants who attacked women with fireworks, robbed them, and sexually assaulted hundreds. Authorities have promised that the cathedral square will have checkpoints to confirm the identities of those attending, a massive police presence, and they may even employ helicopters to maintain order.