On the day before the German federal elections it was an almost certainty that Nationalists would enter the Bundestag on a popular mandate. Alternative für Deutschland (Alternative for Germany) were the party polled to become the party with the third-most accumulative votes, with their representatives ready to fill the German parliament with a proportional number relative to their vote share. A party which is widely described as containing Fascists, Nationalists, and those who unashamedly reflect on Germany’s past with ‘pride’. Anti-Fascists, and demonstrators willing to oppose this state of affairs met on Savignyplatz – a location in West Berlin, known to be a headquarters of the Berlin division of the party.
The protesters gathered around the square in West Berlin, predominantly in black clothing. A good deal of camaraderie was felt between protesters as they gathered at the rendezvous point. Friends meeting up with one another, and a sense of community as though showing solidarity to issues was an important aspect of many of the protester’s lives.
A van was being prepared as the auditory vehicle which would follow the march, with speakers denouncing the AFD, their philosophy, and background. Placards, flags and large banners displayed defiant messages, clearly indicating a stand against the AFD, what they represent, and against exactly the recent history and circumstances that the recent polling has verified for quite some time.
As the march began, the chanting began. An estimated crowd of perhaps 800-1000 protesters marched along the street from Savignyplatz, down Kantstrasse, stopping at certain stops – at one stage for the announcer over the speakers mobilised by the beaten-up van to explain to those nearby the Anti-Feminist positions of the AFD – towards Ernst-Reuter-Platz.
As the protest reached Ernst-Reuter-Platz, already-vandalised election billboards of Angela Merkel and Martin Schulz placed side-by-side could be observed. A couple of those billboards smeared with brown paint, displayed overtly racist slogans. The hostility between the police and the protesters heightened as the protesters tried to reject or cover these messages.
The march came to a halt as the police cornered a couple protesters underneath these billboards for “vandalism” over the already disgusting imagery. The march gathered around underneath these billboards, as the protesters were eventually let free, on the demonstration went down Hardenbergstrasse. The impression was clearly felt that the officers were defending the clearly racist images shown, on display at one of the busiest roundabouts in West Berlin.
Camera crews shot footage towards the front and from the sides of the march. A stark contract is seen between the appearances of the protesters and those documenting them, a slight animosity is sometimes felt between those who find themselves in the same location for very different reasons.
Photographers are advised to avoid taking pictures of faces, and from the perspective of standing within the march for confidentiality reasons; a mentality quite justifiably engrained into the German psyche. Those marching down the street wanted to have their voices heard as a single block. No individual wanted to be singled out in any way whatsoever.
Many Anti-AFD demonstrations had taken place previous to this, in Berlin and Germany in general. However, there is also a sense of hopelessness and apathy, despite the undoubted travesty that is a Nationalist party once again having representatives in the German parliament for the first time since more than a half-century.
Despite even Germany’s resilience against the financial crisis of 2008 and relatively successful economy, there is also an emotive underlying sense of stagnation. This lurch to the Right is more evidently a global phenomenon, we see the peaks of it in places where the crash was felt – mostly by ordinary citizens – in the United States, and Europe in countries such as the United Kingdom, Poland, Hungary, and Austria.
One positive could be that this protest held this global awareness, and in its opposition to Nationalism inherently held an alternative to the status quo; just not one that involves scapegoating of any kind.
They say that Fascism is Capitalism in decay. As it decays, the foundations of this North-Western model of Capitalism erode, and it’s clear that the centre-ground erodes away with it. The decay appears most prevalently in the nations that are the most ardent proponents of that particular brand of Capitalism. Those on the Radical Left have been the messengers of this since the financial crisis. Not many have organised to the extent of providing an alternative to this, with hope as its vehicle, although there are signs of movement and an incredible sense awareness on the ground.