BERLIN (AP) — Tens of thousands of people gathered Friday in Hamburg for a demonstration against the far right, and organizers said the protest was ended early because the mass of people led to safety concerns.
The event in Germany's second-biggest city appeared to be the biggest yet in a string of protests that has grown over the past week. They follow a report that extremists recently met to discuss the deportation of millions of immigrants, including some with German citizenship.
Media outlet Correctiv last week reported on the alleged far-right meeting in November, which it said was attended by figures from the extremist Identitarian Movement and from the far-right Alternative for Germany, or AfD. A prominent member of the Identitarian Movement, Austrian citizen Martin Sellner, presented his “remigration” vision for deportations.
Some demonstrations in cities around Germany, including one in Cologne on Tuesday, already have drawn far more participants than initially expected.
In Hamburg, police said that some 50,000 gathered on a lakeside promenade Friday afternoon, while organizers put the figure at 80,000 and said many people weren't able to squeeze into the venue, German news agency dpa reported.
Kazim Abaci of Unternehmer ohne Grenzen (Businesspeople without Borders), a group that was one of the organizers, said that “we have to end the demonstration early,” citing safety concerns and saying that the fire service was unable to get through the crowd.
“The message to AfD and its right-wing networks is: We are the majority and we are strong because we are united and we are determined not to let our country and our democracy be destroyed for a second time after 1945,” the year of Nazi Germany's defeat, Hamburg Mayor Peter Tschentscher told the crowd.
AfD has sought to distance itself from the extremist meeting, saying it had no organizational or financial links to the event, that it wasn’t responsible for what was discussed there and members who attended did so in a purely personal capacity. Still, one of AfD's co-leaders has parted company with an advisor who was there, while also decrying the reporting itself.
More demonstrations against the far right are planned in German cities over the weekend.