Thousands rally in Germany against nationalism before European vote

People participate in a demonstration for 'A Europe for All - Your Voice Against Nationalism!' at the Alexanderplatz in Berlin, Germany, 19 May 2019. [Alexander Becher/EPA/EFE]

Thousands of people marched in cities across Germany on Sunday (19 May) to protest against nationalist and far-right parties looking to secure more seats in this week’s European elections.

Recent polls show far-right parties like Italy’s League, Germany’s Alternative for Germany (AfD) party and French leader Marie Le Pen’s National Rally (RN), are expected to do well in the vote for seats in European Parliament.

Sunday’s rallies brought together more than 250 organisations under the banner “Against nationalism” in several cities including Frankfurt and Berlin, where thousands marched through the capital from the symbolic Alexanderplatz to the city’s Victory column.

“I am here because I don’t want to relive what a national-socialist party already did during my lifetime. That should never happen again,” said Renate Foigt, 74, referring to the ideology of Nazi Germany.

“I hope more and more people take to the streets to say ‘Stop’.”

In Berlin, protest organisers said 20,000 people took part, though police estimated several thousand. Another 14,000 marched in Frankfurt, according to police, and rallies also took place in Hamburg, Cologne and Munich.

Several thousand also protested in the Austrian capital Vienna, where on Saturday protesters demanded new elections after far-right leader and vice-chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache resigned over a hidden-camera scandal suggesting he was open to corruption.

Italian populist leader Matteo Salvini on Saturday had gathered Europe’s disparate nationalists for a unifying rally that was overshadowed by the scandal shaking Austria’s rightist coalition.

Austria scandal overshadows Salvini's European nationalist rally

Italian populist leader Matteo Salvini on Saturday (18 May) gathered Europe’s disparate nationalists for a unifying rally overshadowed by a major corruption scandal shaking Austria’s far-right coalition.

Salvini of the anti-immigrant League and Le Pen of France’s RN want their Europe of Nations and Freedom (ENF) alliance group to become the third largest in Brussels.

Nationalist governments in Hungary, Poland and Czech Republic also often push anti-immigrant agendas and clash with Brussels over their hardline policies and anti-EU stances.

“I am here to warn against what the governments of Hungary, Poland and Czech Republic have done and what might happen in Germany later. It is very dangerous,” said Marius Schlageter, 27. “We live in a global world and global problems and global responsibilities.”

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