Fear grows over radicalization of the German anti-coronavirus movement

A protester in Berlin protests against the restrictions and raises a banner declaring freedom.
Reuters

It happened again last Wednesday: a young man in his twenties physically attacked a 67-year-old gas station worker in Bremen. The employee had previously reproached the aggressor who had entered the establishment without wearing a face mask put. The young man returned shortly afterwards and beat his victim to the ground, according to police.

The aggression did not end as tragically as that of September 18 at another gas station in the town of Idar-Oberstein – Rhineland-Palatinate -, but it reminded her: a man killed shot to the head to a 20-year-old teller after he asked cover your nose and mouth with a mask. According to the prosecution, the 49-year-old murderer admitted that he did it to “Send a signal” against the restrictions against the pandemic for which he held the cashier personally responsible. The victim’s name was Alex and he was a student.

They are not the first violent acts carried out by supporters of the movement Lateral thinking – transversal thinking – and the German anti-coronavirus phenomenon. They will hardly be the last. The German secret services have been alerting for weeks about the radicalization of elements of this heterogeneous group that brings together from far-right militants and the most diverse conspiracy theories to anti-vaccines and defenders of the alternative medicine and esoteric therapies.

“A distorted image of the world could cause that in the future more people feel called to make use of Extreme measures”Bernhard Witthaut, president of the Office for the Protection of the Constitution of Lower Saxony – German internal secret services – said after the attack on the Bremen gas station. According to Witthaut, the phase of the large demonstrations against the restrictions is, for the moment, history in Germany. Radicalization appears to be taking place on internet forums and on certain Telegram channels. Solo attacks point to be the first sign.

“Crown-dictatorship”

“These isolated cases are the expression of a widespread radicalization “, explains to ‘El Periódico de Catalunya’ Axel Salheiser, researcher at the Institute for Democracy and Civil Society of Jena, specialized in anti-democratic tendencies. “Acts of violence are often justified with the narrative of self-defense and under the interpretation that the current measures and restrictions introduced by the policy are unbearable. This interpretation is projected in the expression ‘Crown-Dictatorship’ used in the circles of the Lateral thinker“, Add.

Salheiser indicates that it is unlikely that these “isolated cases” recorded so far are the last; since the official start of the pandemic, facilities of the Robert-Koch Institute – co-head of the strategy of vaccination In Germany – they have been attacked with Molotov cocktails, hundreds of deniers, neo-Nazis and Reich Citizens – who deny the existence of the Federal Republic – tried to storm the Bundestag in August 2020, and there have been repeated clashes between attendees of anti-marches. -restrictions and the police. The murder at the Idar-Oberstein gas station looks like just a new episode in a progressive radicalization.

To a question from ‘El Periódico de Catalunya’ about more possible attacks from the anti-coronavirus movement, the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution acknowledges having created a new category to monitor this phenomenon that is difficult to classify within the main threats that the German secret services have historically watched: far right, far left, Islamism / Jihadism and foreign secret services. “Delegitimization of the State” is the name of this new category that includes the diversity of actors who participate in the anti-restriction movement.

“Legitimate protests and demonstrations are increasingly exploited,” say the secret services. “Also the organizers of demonstrations – especially protagonists of the movement Lateral thinker – clearly show that their agenda goes beyond a simple mobilization against state measures against the coronavirus. They establish contacts with Citizens of the Reich (…) and other far-right organizations, propagate the denial of the authorities’ provisions and deny the monopoly of state violence, ”adds a spokeswoman for the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution.

Official distancing

Both the main figures of the movement Lateral thinker like the young Die Basis party, born out of the anti-restriction protests, they have expressly distanced themselves from the Idar-Oberstein attack. This distancing takes place both in the public sphere and in their Telegram channels, where these circles tend to organize and stay informed. At the same time, the anti-coronavirus movement continues to fuel the narrative of the resistance to authoritarianism and the fight against the “Crown-dictatorship”, a language that gives wings to outbreaks of violence, as experts and the secret services warn.

Despite the fact that the anti-restriction marches have undoubtedly become a meeting point for far-right structures that already existed before the pandemic in Germany, the anti-crown movement is far from being an exclusively neo-Nazi or far-right phenomenon. As Alex Salheiser points out, it has attracted figures from the “center of society”, the middle classes and also academics. The analyst even draws a parallel between the anti-restriction protests and the anti-immigration marches of 2015. The latter is precisely what makes a radicalized anti-crown movement dangerous: people who are not watched by the authorities and the police for lack of criminal records could lead new actions violent in the future.

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