Attacks on politicians, insults against female scientists, violence and calls for an overthrow: According to the Office for the Protection of the Constitution, parts of the protest movement against the coronavirus protective measures have become radicalized. That makes “lateral thinking” and Co. so dangerous.
There is a new chapter in the intelligence report – a new threat to our democracy. “Delegitimization of the state relevant to the protection of the constitution” is the somewhat unwieldy title of the section. She means: the increasing radicalization of the protests against the coronavirus protective measures. It culminated in the murder of a 20-year-old gas station employee in Idar-Oberstein last September.
President of the Office for the Protection of the Constitution Thomas Haldenwang and Federal Minister of the Interior Nancy Faeser (SPD) made it clear at the presentation of the 2021 Office for the Protection of the Constitution report in Berlin that parts of the movement are concerned with much more than the rejection of mask requirements, distance rules and the like. “The state and its institutions became questioned in terms of their legitimacy,” said Faeser. Haldenwang added that it was the task of the Office for the Protection of the Constitution to also look at this scene.
The Office for the Protection of the Constitution warns of radical “lateral thinkers”
Both emphasized that it was difficult to assign the self-proclaimed “lateral thinkers” to the established phenomena of right-wing or left-wing extremism. The structures, the people involved and their goals are too diffuse. For example, the movement in Saxony is shaped by right-wing extremists, while in southern Germany esotericists set the tone, and “Reich citizens”, “self-administrators” and anti-Semites are also involved in various regions. There is still no assessment of the size of the “delegitimization of the state relevant to the protection of the constitution” scene.
But some of their protagonists have in common that “a fundamental rejection of the existing state order and its institutions” has developed, according to the report by the domestic intelligence service. “The members of the phenomenon area try to undermine trust in parliamentary democracy, in state institutions as well as in science and the media. They aim to radicalize and mobilize parts of the population in order to advance their own agenda.”
Haldenwang emphasized: “Our interest is not in a critical attitude of protest participants towards the federal and state governments, but in the calls for violence and attacks on our democracy.”
Because the protests against the coronavirus protective measures have become more and more radicalized in the past year, according to the observation of the Office for the Protection of the Constitution. Demonstrations have become increasingly confrontational. Clashes with the police were seen by the scene as evidence of a “rigorously acting unjust state” and bans on demonstrations were deliberately disregarded. One of the propagandistic “highlights” of the “lateral thinking” movement is the temporary occupation of the stairs of the Reichstag building in Berlin on August 29.
Climate policy new protest target?
Particularly threatening: In the course of the Corona protests, (local) politicians, scientists, police officers or journalists were repeatedly threatened with death or even visited at their homes. “These projects are obviously not based solely on the will to express protest; they can rather be understood as a targeted attempt at intimidation,” according to the intelligence agency. Disinformation, calls for violence and the overthrow of the existing political order are the order of the day in the scene, especially messenger services and social networks play a special role here.
President Haldenwang for the protection of the constitution does not believe that the “lateral thinking” movement will also come to an end with the possible end of the coronavirus pandemic. “Because the extremist potential in this new phenomenon area is thematically flexible and will turn to new connectable topics after the corona pandemic.” As an example, he cited the federal government’s climate policy, which could lead to new protests in this scene.
You can read more findings from the 2021 Office for the Protection of the Constitution, including left-wing and right-wing extremism, here.
Sources: Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution, Federal Ministry of the Interior and Homeland, news agencies DPA and AFP