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Far-right Germans try to storm Reichstag as coronavirus protests escalate

“They call ‘We are the people,’ but they are not,” Mr Quent said of the protesters who stormed the Reichstag.

“In Germany, like many other European countries, we see that far-right parties are losing ground, that trust in incumbent governments is growing,” Mr Quent said. “In the short term, the pandemic cannot be exploited by far-right parties.”

If the economy deteriorates further and unemployment rises, that equation could change, he said. Already, the AfD and the far-right groups are trying to take advantage of the discontent as they begin to position themselves on a much uglier political scene in a few months.

What worries officials and extremism experts more immediately is that even if the far right is a minority of the protesters, it is radicalizing. Supporters calling for Saturday’s protest included Bjorn Hocke, an AfD fiery brand, and Martin Selner, a star of the extremist generation identity movement, both classified as far-right extremists by the domestic intelligence service.

The bulletin boards are on par with far-right conspiracy theories and preliminary groups that have long fantasized about a crisis so deep that it could lead to the collapse of the German liberal order. Ahead of Saturday’s protest, which the city government tried to block before being rejected by the court, several public groups in the Telegram news app called for a “storm in Berlin.”

Some had posted pictures of themselves and their weapons. “This is very unusual for Germany,” Mr Quent said.

Authorities are on high alert. In the last 14 months, far-right terrorists have killed a regional politician on his front porch near the central city of Kassel, attacked a synagogue in Halle to the east and killed 10 people in the west in Hanau in February. Even before the pandemic hit Germany, far-right extremism and far-right terrorism were officially identified as the greatest threat to democracy in the country.

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